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 Strike Back Ep. 2 reviews

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PostSubject: Strike Back Ep. 2 reviews   Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:38 pm

http://www.craveonline.com/tv/reviews/173019-strike-back-102-episode-2

STRIKE BACK 1:02 'Episode 2'

Damien Scott and Michael Stonebridge attempt to defuse a deadly hotel siege in India.
By Blair Marnell
August 21, 2011

Episode Title: "Episode 2"

Writer: Frank Spotnitz

Director: Daniel Percival

Previously on "Strike Back""

British operative John Porter (Richard Armitage) was held in Pakistan by a terrorist known as Latif. When the British Special Forces team from Section 20 attempted to rescue Porter, they found that he had inexplicably been moved right before the attack. One of the team's members was also killed by a remaining terrorist. Col. Eleanor Grant (Amanda Mealing) then ordered Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) to find Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton), a former Delta Force operative who had worked with Porter. Scott was also the only man alive other than Porter who knew Latif by sight.

Stonebridge found Scott engaging in underground fights in Malaysia. Once he was brought back to the U.K., Scott demanded payment to help the team find Porter... shortly before Porter was executed in another message from Latif. While replaying Porter's last words, Scott realized that Porter was using a secret code that they had devised to alert him about Latif's next target: a prominent hotel in India. Scott convinced Stonebridge and Section 20 to bring him with them to finish Porter's last mission. But once in the hotel, Scott made a quick stop at the bar and hit on both the Barmaid (Karen David) and a woman named Iman Zubedah (Sasha Behar).

Latif's men were caught smuggling weapons into the hotel, forcing them to begin a siege sooner than planned. Although Stonebridge was one of the initial hostages, he broke free with two others. Upstairs, Scott stopped having sex with the Barmaid long enough to kill a few terrorists and escort Iman and a young girl to a safer room. He then met up with Stonebridge in a stairwell as they realized that Latif was looking for someone named Mahmood. Moments later, one of the escaped hostages with Stonebridge held both men at gun point as Latif's men surrounded them on all sides.

Story:

The man who is apparently Latif disarms Scott and Stonebridge and disables their transmitters. Scott is then forced at gunpoint to take Latif and his gunmen to the room where he's hidden Iman. As they are led away, Scott admits to Stonebridge that he had never actually seen Latif before Outside, Colonel Grant asks General Kohil (Alyy Khan) for more time in order to give Scott and Stonebridge a chance to resolve the situation from the inside. Kohil gives them until sunrise to overcome the terrorists before his troops go in hard. Grant also gets the Pakistani ISI agent (Jimi Mistry) to admit that Mahmood is the code name for a scientist who has been leaking classified WMD knowledge to his country for the last ten years.

Out in the lobby, one of the terrorists shows a reluctance to kill the hostages that his companions do not. When their first intended victim turns out to be an English speaking Muslim, they return him to the crowd and execute a teenager instead. Upstairs, Scott leads Latif and his men to the wrong room, allowing himself and Stonebridge to break free and grab some of the guns away from Latif's men. In the ensuing gun battle, Scott's leg is wounded before they take Iman and the young girl outside on the ledge. An Indian sniper saves their lives and nearly hits Latif before he and his men retreat.

As Stonebridge removes the bullet from Scott's leg wound with a knife, Scott tells him how he was dishonorably discharged while in Iraq because he had asked too many questions about a WMD inspection. Iman hears Scott's story and becomes visibly unnerved. She takes off her shoes and slips away. Scott and Stonebridge notice her absence a few moments later and split up to find her, leaving the young girl behind. Scott finds Iman attempting to get away in an elevator. He stops Iman and gets her to confess that she is Mahmood and she was attempting to get protection from Pakistan.

Iman also explains that she was part of a plan to plant WMDs in Iraq to justify the U.S. invasion. But the weapons were never found and Latif wants to use them against the west. When they return to rendezvous point, the little girl is being held at gun point and Scott is forced to surrender. Latif escorts Iman away as Scott and the little girl are added to the hostages in the lobby. Realizing what's happened, Stonebridge contacts Grant and she orders him to retrieve Iman at all costs. In the lobby, the terrorists set up a war head to be dropped as soon as the Indian army begins their siege.

The western Muslim from earlier is given a chance to deride the terrorists for perverting the teachings of their religion, but most of them openly scoff at them. Elsewhere, Stonebridge eliminates Latif's men with precision and he even kills Latif himself and frees Iman. In the lobby, Scott appeals to the sympathetic terrorist to let him escort the young girl to the restroom. But after Scott gets her inside, he begins to grapple with the nearest terrorist and grabs his weapon. Scott manages to keep the war head from being immediately dropped and his life is saved by the sympathetic terrorist who turns on his comrades... moments before he himself is gunned down by the Indian army.

As the war head begins to fall to the ground, Stonebridge makes a sliding catch just in time to save the day. Outside, Stonebridge and Grant hand Iman over to the ISI agent, who promises to share whatever they learn from her. Scott returns the young girl to her mother and successfully gets Grant to offer him a position with Section 20. Shortly thereafter, the team realizes that the man that Stonebridge killed was not Latif, but someone affiliated with him. And on the way to Pakistan, the ISI agent reveals himself to be Latif as he interrogates Iman. When Section 20 and the Indian authorities catch up to them, Latif is long gone and Iman is dead.

Back in the U.K., Stonebridge and Scott have a private meeting in which they realize that Porter specifically wanted Scott to join Section 20 because Latif either has a mole within the organization or with someone who has access to their intelligence. The two men then make a pact to watch each other's backs as they search for Latif and the traitor.

Breakdown:

There's a moment in this week's "Strike Back" where Stonebridge literally catches a falling war head as he slides across the floor. And it's such a ridiculously over-the-top scene that it was almost hilarious.

If you've ever watched an action movie or TV series before, all of the plot twists in this episode were also pretty easy to guess. Latif turns out to be the ISI agent all along while Iman is secretly Mahmood. And there's a traitor inside Section 20. All of these elements should feel very familiar to anyone who has watched "24" or "Alias." While "Strike Back" is never going to win any points for originality, it does have something that other action TV series don't seem to have: money to burn.

Even though the episode was largely "Die Hard in Hotel," it works because the gun battles were well staged, the action was exciting and both Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester manage to find the right balance between winking at the audience and taking the events seriously. Both Scott and Stonebridge turn out to be very likable characters and when they make their alliance at the end, it feels like the beginning of a genuine friendship between the two. For all of Scott's posturing, he and Stonebridge essentially share the same purpose to avenge their friend and take down Latif.

The rest of Section 20 seems largely toothless by comparison and they spent most of the episode holding out hope that that their two operatives could miraculously take back the hotel themselves. There is an attempt to give Stonebridge more depth by revealing that he's having an affair with his teammate, Captain Kate Marshall (Eva Birthistle) while juggling a wife named Kerry (Alexandra Moen) back home... which means he isn't as squeaky clean as he appeared in the first episode.

Scott remains the man that he is throughout: he loves the ladies and he isn't shy about showing it. I'm almost surprised that the producers resisted the urge to give Scott another sexual encounter during the hotel siege, but that would have probably been a bridge too far for even this series. As it is, there's still a partially naked woman when Kate has her scene with Stonebridge. That's almost restraint for this series.

There was also a good scene in which the English speaking Muslim calling out the terrorists for acting against the beliefs of Islam in favor of their extreme ideology. Although some might call that political correctness for covering its bases, it was a needed moment of balance and it helped set up the eventual turn of the sympathetic terrorist.

Again, this isn't the most complex or intricately written show on television. But for an action fix, "Strike Back" delivers what it promises and it's entertaining. Sometimes that's all we need.

Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.

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PostSubject: Re: Strike Back Ep. 2 reviews   Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:46 am

http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/channel-guide-strike-back-is-the-next-24.php

Channel Guide: 24′s Replacement Has Been Found, And Its Name Is ‘Strike Back’
Channel Guide By Merrill Barr on August 17, 2011

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it, I wasn’t aware of Strike Back‘s existence until the week of the season 2 premiere… or rather the season 1 premiere on Cinemax here in the States. Before we get into the premiere, let’s go through some history.

Strike Back is a show that was created by the Sky1 over in the UK. The show was well received both critically and commercially. Recently Cinemax has been in the process of putting, for the first time ever, original programs into production. The most high profile was/is the upcoming Transporter show based on the hit film series.

But rather than wait for that show to premiere later this year, they decided to pull a Torchwood and help Sky1 finance Strike Back. So, now with Cinemax as a co-financier, we have Strike Back season 2, which is being passed as season 1 in the U.S.

And that brings us to the question that we’re all wondering, is season 1/season 2 any good?

Well, before answering that question is should be noted that the show barely resembles what it was in the first season. Pretty much the only thing to carry over is the secret division of MI:6, Section 20. And even that has been given a major face lift along with the rest of the series.

*The following two paragraphs contains a major spoiler from the Season Two premiere… if you’re currently watching the first season you may want to jump past the image.*

The premiere of season 2 begins with the star of the previous season, John Porter being held hostage by a group of terrorists being led by a man named Latif, that is threatening to kill him live via webcast if their demands are not met. Oddly enough, half-way into the premiere, Porter is shot point blank in the head, making it very clear that he is out for good.

It’s some 24 level “Holy shit, they did not just do that” plot style. Now, there is a behind-the-camera reason why the decision to kill Porter was made, but as a good friend of mine put it “dude went out like a fucking champ,” and you know what, he’s totally right. Porter went out tragically, but without fear. It’s a death almost too fitting for the man we got to know in season 1. It’s a damn good job.

And that brings us to the two brand new leads of the show, current Section 20 agent Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and former U.S. soldier Damian Scott (Sullivan Stapleton). From the first scene where the two are together, it’s clear that the writers want to give the show a better “friend” vibe, especially considering the events of season 1.

Instead of season one’s John McClane style man on a mission, the show’s format has gone more buddy cop with terrorists. There’s a scene in the trailer of season two that is a perfect example of the rapport the two share. The scene features Stonebridge and Scott in a stairwell holding AK-47s:

Scott: “How many men have you taken out?”

Stonebridge: “Two, you?”

Scott: “Three.”

Stonebridge: “Ha, that’s good.”

Some might argue that the series has become “Americanized” compared to what we saw in season 1, but I would argue that only holds true in the cinematography (which was very clean compared to some other UK shows). Beyond that, the type of stories Strike Back tells is still the same.

The threat of terrorism is still very real. The covert military operations are still very real. And the tone is still very serious, even the first season has short bursts of humor like the aforementioned one.

I was able to watch the second episode of the series which doesn’t air until this Friday (and you can too over at Cinemax.com whether you’re a subscriber or not). They are also still playing episode 1 there for free as well), and what I will say is that the show definitely maintains its intensity.

It also helps that the new season is keeping the format of taking two episodes to tell a story. It allows for more time with the characters of a single time period and it also allows the events of the story to unfold in a more realistic manner, similar to, you guessed it, 24.

This show is indeed the filler US audiences needed for the hole left behind by the departure of 24 last year. And as long as the show maintains its current level of quality, than it will indeed be the first win for Cinemax in their brand new game of original programming.

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PostSubject: Re: Strike Back Ep. 2 reviews   Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:56 am

http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/2011/08/20/bstrike_back_b_episode_2_re-cap_and_review_spoilers/#

Strike Back Episode 2, Recap and Review (SPOILERS)
Thompson on Hollywood
Still mourning the demise of 24, action fan David Chute finds his bliss on Cinemax.

At some point I will have to devote some major word count to the work of frequent Strike Back director Daniel Percival. In my youth I was a dedicated action aficionado, with enthusiasms that have moved from Don Siegel and Sam Peckinpah to George Miller and John Woo. We can’t put Percival in the all-time category quite yet, in part because he doesn’t use battle sequences for displays of virtuosity. The firefights aren’t abstract exercises, for him. His action sequences are scenes of drama. They are horrendous ordeals that are happening to people who seem normal to him. He’ll give us a tight close up of a fighter’s face, just as he’s firing, as if the most important thing to understand at that moment is why this guy is taking that particular shot.

Of course it helps that capable performers such as Philip Winchester and Animal Kingdom‘s Sullivan Stapleton, as his somewhat more agitated comrade-in-arms, are up to the task of shooting and acting at the same time. The alertness of their reactions to the action swirling around them pulls us into the chaos.

Upon reflection, words like “pulp” and “exploitation” don’t really apply to a show Strike Back. Certainly there are turns of plot that are pure heroic fantasy, like the beautifully staged sliding catch with which Winchester’s Michael Stonebridge saves New Delhi from a WMD at the end of Episode 2. But at heart this is a serious show about the deadly serious need (in the modern world and against a de-centralized modern enemy) for hair-trigger Special Forces samurai like the guys who took out Bin Laden.

The program’s seriousness is signaled initially by its determination to get the details right, everything from the color of the braid on an Indian police captain’s turban to the sledgehammer impact of a .50 caliber sniper round. The human textures are even more impressive, in part because Strike Back’s format of two part, two hour narratives allows each story the density of a feature film.

A crime scene in an Indian hotel isn’t just stuffed with extras, it’s populated with briefly glimpsed but vivid supporting characters, well-played by real Indian and Anglo-Indian actors, good ones like The Mystic Masseur’s Jimi Mistry, whose Hindi and Urdu dialog is expressive even when it isn’t subtitled. These full-blooded human terrorists are more chilling than the conventional TV and movie cartoon Jihadists; not monsters but human beings who would cheerfully slit your throat.

The Bin Laden mission was one of the very few undertaken by the SAS, Delta Force or the Navy Seals that you and I will ever get to hear about. By taking us along on several of these black ops expeditions, Strike Back has the behind-the-curtain appeal of a fact-based espionage adventure, the sense of finally seeing what the world really looks like when the idealistic varnish has scraped off—combined with the most blistering action sequences currently available on a screen of any size.

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PostSubject: Re: Strike Back Ep. 2 reviews   Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:14 am

http://www.thesqueee.co.uk/2011/08/strike-back-project-dawn-21.html

Monday, 22 August 2011
Strike Back: Project Dawn 2.1

TV episode review: Strike Back: Project Dawn, episode 1 (2011)

Not-John-Porter and That-Other-Dude.

So, Strike Back has returned to UK's Sky 1. Together with US channel Cinemax, we get an even more macho version of something so testosterone fuelled to begin with that I almost feel a penis starting to sprout from my nether regions. Ugh. I wasn't keen on this show to begin with, but as it starred Richard Armitage, I bit the bullet and watched it anyway. He got his top off a lot, and even went full monty at one point, so all in all, it was worth watching. Of sorts. Toby Stephens showed up in a suit too, which was also very much appreciated.

So what about series two? It starts out with a scruffy (gorgeous) John Porter (Richard Armitage) who has been captured by a group of Muslim terrorists. He gets to record a message and a hunky Philip Winchester with a British accent (not that I've ever heard him with any other), who goes to get an American pal of Porter's. American dude (Sullivan Stapleton), while hunky too, is a sleazy womaniser. And the rest of the one-hour episode was about how they were tracking down a terrorist leader in an Indian hotel, which they found through encoded clues left by Porter. Shootings ensue. And hostages. And womanising. And oh so predictable "wait, YOU'RE the bad guy we're looking for?! Cor blimey, who'd a-thought it? You seemed like a jolly nice fellow!"

How impressed was I by this episode? I wasn't. Duuh.

Sex for the sake of it, boys with guns, same old, same old. The only redeeming features were the two starring hunks being hunky, brief glimpses of Richard Armitage (only like two minutes total) and the fact that made me go "oooooh!" at the very start: it was written by Frank Spotnitz. As an old X-Phile, that's a name I've come to know and respect. He used to work on The X-Files back in the day. Biggest squeeeeee-moment - after seeing and hearing Porter - was when the hunks checked in to the hotel ... as "Mr. Byers" and "Mr. Langley". Took me a couple of seconds to realise, but then I was happy for the rest of the episode, listening out for the mention of a "Mr. Frohike" too. Never came, but still. Just one nerd short of the Lone Gunmen, and for that, I salute the writer.

But that's it. Just because they've slapped a "Project Dawn" on the end doesn't mean Strike Back has evolved from stupid machismofest. It still is, but now it has genuine Americans in it. Big deal. And the cipher didn't make sense. Nor was it worth our whiles as fans of the Armitage either. If you've seen it, you know what I mean, aside from how brief his appearance was. No fair. At least he was on screen slightly longer in Captain America ... which I'd much rather be watching.

1.5 out of 5 besieged hotels, which it only gets for Spotnitz and his X-Files reference.

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PostSubject: Re: Strike Back Ep. 2 reviews   Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:22 am

http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/2011/08/20/bstrike_back_b_episode_2_re-cap_and_review_spoilers/

Strike Back Episode 2, Recap and Review (SPOILERS)
Thompson on Hollywood
Still mourning the demise of 24, action fan David Chute finds his bliss on Cinemax.

At some point I will have to devote some major word count to the work of frequent Strike Back director Daniel Percival. In my youth I was a dedicated action aficionado, with enthusiasms that have moved from Don Siegel and Sam Peckinpah to George Miller and John Woo. We can’t put Percival in the all-time category quite yet, in part because he doesn’t use battle sequences for displays of virtuosity. The firefights aren’t abstract exercises, for him. His action sequences are scenes of drama. They are horrendous ordeals that are happening to people who seem normal to him. He’ll give us a tight close up of a fighter’s face, just as he’s firing, as if the most important thing to understand at that moment is why this guy is taking that particular shot.

Of course it helps that capable performers such as Philip Winchester and Animal Kingdom‘s Sullivan Stapleton, as his somewhat more agitated comrade-in-arms, are up to the task of shooting and acting at the same time. The alertness of their reactions to the action swirling around them pulls us into the chaos.

Upon reflection, words like “pulp” and “exploitation” don’t really apply to a show Strike Back. Certainly there are turns of plot that are pure heroic fantasy, like the beautifully staged sliding catch with which Winchester’s Michael Stonebridge saves New Delhi from a WMD at the end of Episode 2. But at heart this is a serious show about the deadly serious need (in the modern world and against a de-centralized modern enemy) for hair-trigger Special Forces samurai like the guys who took out Bin Laden.

The program’s seriousness is signaled initially by its determination to get the details right, everything from the color of the braid on an Indian police captain’s turban to the sledgehammer impact of a .50 caliber sniper round. The human textures are even more impressive, in part because Strike Back’s format of two part, two hour narratives allows each story the density of a feature film.

A crime scene in an Indian hotel isn’t just stuffed with extras, it’s populated with briefly glimpsed but vivid supporting characters, well-played by real Indian and Anglo-Indian actors, good ones like The Mystic Masseur’s Jimi Mistry, whose Hindi and Urdu dialog is expressive even when it isn’t subtitled. These full-blooded human terrorists are more chilling than the conventional TV and movie cartoon Jihadists; not monsters but human beings who would cheerfully slit your throat.

The Bin Laden mission was one of the very few undertaken by the SAS, Delta Force or the Navy Seals that you and I will ever get to hear about. By taking us along on several of these black ops expeditions, Strike Back has the behind-the-curtain appeal of a fact-based espionage adventure, the sense of finally seeing what the world really looks like when the idealistic varnish has scraped off—combined with the most blistering action sequences currently available on a screen of any size.

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