Review: ECHO 3, They Grabbed My Wife and His Sister. We're Coming For You.
Michael Huisman, Luke Evans and Jessica Ann Collins star in the series, created by Mark Boal and debuting globally on Apple TV+, that aims to explore deeper issues than the action that predominates.
Maybe you should leave home without it.
The first three episodes debut today (November 23, 2022) on Apple TV+ worldwide. Subsequent episodes will debut weekly, every Friday through January 13, 2023. I've seen all five episodes that were made available for advance screening.
First published in 2008, Israeli writer Amir Gutfreund's novel Heroes Fly to Her/When Heroes Fly inspired Avi Nesher's film The Matchmaker (2010), a drama about a teenage boy who starts work for a matchmaker, a Holocaust survivor.
The novel also inspired Omri Givon's series When Heroes Fly (2018), a ten-episode dramatic thriller now streaming on Netflix, in which four Israeli military veterans return to Colombia "in search of a loved one," presumed dead after an automobile accident years before.
Created by Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), Echo 3 acknowledges the novel and series as inspiration, yet appears to craft its own path through a story of grief, loss, and sustained battle. I've seen the first five episodes, which were made available to critics for advance viewing, which comprise the first two parts of the longform series. It's an engaging series that contains many of the action sequences that one might expect, owing to its premise, though creator Boal clearly has greater ambitions than simply telling a swiftly-moving adventure story.
Oddly enough, the show's set-up reminded me a little of Renny Harlin's Cliffhanger (1993), which established a hero, his bond with his best friend, and how that bond was forever altered by the actions of the hero in the first 10 minutes of the movie in a bravura sequence. Here, the hero is Prince (Michael Huisman), the military code name of a soldier whose bond of trust and friendship in his commanding officer, Bambi (Luke Evans), is forever altered by the actions of Bambi in an early wartime sequence.
To heighten the tension, though, the opening sequence depicts their deep bond before it breaks apart. Prince marries Bambi's sister, Amber (Jessica Ann Collins), in an extended opening, shortened because Prince and Bambi are called to duty in the morning, along with all their other in-attendance comrades, all members of the same, tight-knit unit.
It is on that fateful mission that things change between Prince and Bambi. As the wreckage is still smoldering some time later, botanist Amber departs to Colombia on a scientific mission, near the border with Venezuela. Before she left the U.S., her worried husband Prince hid a military homing device in her luggage "for safety," and that comes back to bite her when she is kidnapped by a newly-formed group of terrorists who are looking to make a name for themselves.
Boal, who wrote the first two episodes, co-wrote others, and directed (at least) the fifth episode, certainly knows how to establish and sustain tension in a story, cloaked in layers of military authenticity and geopolitical knowledge of the region. Likewise, Pablo Trapero (Carancho, White Elephant, The Clan), who helmed the first two episodes (and perhaps others) certainly is experienced in creating tension and sustaining interest, using subtle methods, without calling attention to his methods of doing so.
On top of those good bones, Michael Huisman and Luke Evans create and sustain chemistry, somewhat akin to former lovers who are now wary friends, each reliant upon the other, even though they refuse to admit or even talk about their relationship. Jessica Ann Collins earns empathy for her role, in which she is constantly isolated, battered, bruised, and abused. More than a stiff upper lip, she shows that she is constantly ready to defend herself, even if she can't stop (entirely) how she is treated or even materially affect it.
Through the first five episodes, the shape of the show begins to emerge. It builds momentum through the first three episodes ("Part One") before slowing down and then ramping back up to a desperate degree in the fourth and fifth episodes ("Part Two").
By the conclusion of the fifth episode, I was primed and ready for more. We'll see what happens, but I'm optimistic that the show will be worth the investment of time to watch it over the next few weeks.
- Mark Boal
- Michiel Huisman
- Luke Evans
- Jessica Ann Collins