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Dramatic licence has been taken with a capital D (and L) here, despite the
consultant on the series being Chris Ryan, formerly of the SAS. It does
feel as though the production opted out of reality and instead borrowed
heavily from a number of previous action films and series, adding the
voguish cliches of multi-ethnic troops, tough-talking female and 'new man'
The reviews have almost universally criticised the writing and the on-screen violence. I can't argue with the former, despite being a fan of Rob Heyland since the excellent 'Between the Lines'. Rob: integrate your jokes and make them feasible references for young men in their twenties, please! I'd say the violence is not gratuitously explicit, considering it's a series about the death-or-glory boys, but to show a character able to walk, talk and perform physical tasks after extreme torture is a little unbelievable and, dare I say it, irresponsible.
Notwithstanding, I watched it. As a vehicle for Ross Kemp it is perfect, and the other central cast members are a talented - and yes, very attractive - ensemble of actors. It was also refreshing in a world awash with soaps and so-called relationship dramas to focus on something plot-driven. I've heard a rumour it's been recommissioned, so it would seem that I and a few million others (mostly young men, according to the ratings demographic) aren't wrong. Here's hoping the next series ups the credibility and keeps the pace. After all, Who Dares Wins, eh?
If you want to see character development and soapy plots, then I'm afraid
you've come to the wrong place. If it's action you're after, then Ultimate
Force is for you.
Former Eastenders hardman Ross Kemp plays the tough Sergeant in this show about the notorious Special Air Service, one of the most secretive regiments in the British Army. This is a show about one thing only-action and plenty of it!
The SAS are one of the most elite forces in the world, having seen action in places such as Oman and Iraq during the Gulf War. They are a highly trained regiment who go in, do their job with the minimum of fuss and causing as little damage as possible, and then they leave. This show did a great job portraying the S.A.S. Whilst some of what happened in this show may not be what the S.A.S. gets up to in real life, it is still a fantastic show which portrays the S.A.S. how they deserve to be portrayed-as courageous soldiers. This was a very good show which I hope gets a second series.
Who Dares Wins?
The series was actually based on the books by Chris Ryan, who has acted as
story consultant for the whole series, and has actually appeared in a few
episodes. Truth be told we don't really know what the SAS do or where
are, but I would guess that Chris Ryan has a pretty good
The first episode was tricky, trying to establish new characters in a series is never easy. But I felt that as the series progressed it settled down into a good solid drama, and I'm very pleased to hear that a second series has been commissioned.
Jamie Draven especially has been one to watch - he is consistently excellent and certainly tones down the 'Kemp Effect' considerably. Actually, far from being a star vehicle for Kemp, the original screenplays were written from the persepctive of Jamie Draven's character, Kemp was shoehorned in as a later addition.
On the whole I think it is an excellent ensemble cast, Tony Curran brings a hard, gritty edge to his character, whilst Elliot Cowan provides a lot of the laughs. I'm certainly looking forward to series 2 with some relish!
We need a series like this. It does exactly what is says on the tin.
Most of the situations are unbelievable but what do you expect from a
show about the SAS? The production values are OK and the action is
exciting without being silly (compared to made for TV American action
movies). There are some stock characters but the script isn't laughable
and the actors seem to care about what they are doing. As the new team
member Jamie Draven portrays the right amount of innocence and brings a
sense of duty to his role; his interactions with the rest of the cast
are well thought out; you can see some chemistry between him and Alex
Reid and I hope this is fleshed out in the next series. Although billed
as such I never found Ross Kemp to be the star of the show and at times
we aren't even supposed to like him; I am glad character is written
this way and that his obvious mental scars dictate the person he is.
This is in stark contrast to badly written imported shows where we are
expected to believe that hardened battle veterans who are emotionally
scarred and have shattered private lives are really nice guys who never
do any thing wrong.
Some episodes are better than others; I actually thought the first episode was fairly weak but the second with the pressure group sniper story was excellent and allowed us to see flashes of how good the series could be.
I only got to see the first episode of the second series which took place on board a ship; the standout fight scene being that in the belly of the ship between Jamie Draven and the legionnaire, it was a tough no nonsense scrap and as exciting as the fight in the Bourne Identity.
Looking forward to the DVD.
Dealing with the lives and missions of a small group of soldiers in
Britain's most elite Army unit, the SAS, this is definitely one of the best
British action / drama series for years. Although there's a definite nod
towards `political correctness' in that this fictional SAS unit has a
multi-ethnic make-up, plus a female member (in the real world, no women
serve in the SAS), the series on the whole succeeds in striking the perfect
balance between strong storylines, gritty realism, exciting action scenes,
personal drama and the occasional touch of humor. The quality of the stories
is also consistently good, and so far (after two series of six episodes
each) I'd say that there hasn't been one single `weak' episode. Only perhaps
the odd episode that's been `less good' than the others.
But last night after watching the finale of Series 2 I was left disappointed. Now I've never served in the military so I don't pretend to be an expert on these matters, but as a layman I've always thought that one of the series' main strengths is that it seems pretty realistic with regard to its portrayal of Army life and the kind of missions that UK special forces troops perhaps get sent on in real life etc. etc. However, the end of last night's episode left something of a bitter aftertaste, simply because the series' main character, Sergeant `Henno' Garvie (ably played by Ross Kemp of `Eastenders' fame) gunned down in cold blood his troop CO, Captain McElwaine, for no other reason than the latter had been shagging the wife of one of his men. The killing was done in cold blood and using a captured AK47 rather than Henno's own weapon to make it appear that the Captain had been killed by enemy fire thus instantly transforming the Henno character into nothing more that a cold-blooded murderer. True, soldiers are trained to kill without hesitation if necessary. But I find it inconceivable that - given the (on the grand scale of things) relatively trivial nature of the Captain's `offence' - these would be the actions of an experienced, senior NCO in Britain's most elite military unit. And I found the actions of the rest of the squad (including their Colonel, who they'd just freed in a daring rescue mission) almost equally bizarre namely dumping the (admittedly unpopular) dead Captain's body in a freezer full of beer and cracking jokes over it. Unbelievable. I hope that this is not the end of the series and that it will be back. Firstly because that last night's closing scenes notwithstanding, it's been such a great show up to now and secondly it would be a pity to end the whole thing on such a negative note there definitely needs to be some character redemption!! Still it's great that all six episodes of Series 1 are now available to buy on DVD, because this series is a must for anyone who enjoys hard-hitting action and / or military drama that pulls no punches.
This is probably the most entertaining drama series that has been on tv for a long while. The important thing to remember with it though, is that it is supposed to be entertaining and not a documentary, something that many people seem to have missed when reviewing it, therefore some of the storylines are going to be a bit far fetched and some characters will not seem realistic. It is the mix of characters though that make the programme so great. Ross Kemp is hard as nails and to quote Colonel Aidan Dempsey (Miles Anderson) is "the best soldier, in the best regiment in the best army in the world". Ricky Mann (Danny Sapani) is the comedian in the troop and Pete Twamley (Tony Curran) is the archetypal lary scotsman. All of the other characters add their own ingredients to the recipe to create the best dinner you will ever eat. Buy the first series boxset, you'll love it you will, you'll love it.
Like the summary says.. WOW!
It's about a young guy, Jamie Dow who started out as a thief stealing cars from the age of 12 to 18. When sentenced, the judge was told that he'd just been accepted for the Royal Legistics Corps.
From there he worked hard and made it into the SAS. When asked why he did it he says that he 'wanted to see if I could make it'.
The show is basically about the SAS and the situations they find themselves in.
Not for the faint hearted but a very good show. Ross Kemp plays the ultimate Sergeant, the typical hard guy needed to be there. He's still very fair but doesn't let his feelings get in the way of things. Underneath he's a real pussycat, and looks after his command with his life.
The supporting cast is very well picked and compliments the show perfectly.
Last comment.. it's lovely to see an almost unknown actor Jamie Draven being given the chance to shine, and he takes every opportunity. One of the films you will have seen in is 'Billy Elliot' as Billy's brother.
I hope they do more than the 6 episodes as I would love to see more of Jamie and the guys.
I really enjoyed the first couple of seasons of the show, but season 3
and 4 wandered off into a fantasy land. The action seemed to be
cartoon-like. It was also bizarre that season 4 seemed to focus on
Americans as bumbling fools and/or untrustworthy enemies. Perhaps it
was the zeitgeist of the day, or more likely a desperate attempt to
salvage a very limited show that had run out of ideas. At any rate, it
didn't save the show from cancellation. The other problem probably
facing the show was that political correctness in the UK doesn't really
allow for "bad guy profiling," so they needed to pick an enemy that
isn't going to sue them or protest in the streets. So that leaves out
the various Muslim nations, North Korea, Japan, the French (one
supposes) and pretty much leaves the good old US of A.
The effort to salvage the show also led the producers to ever bigger stunts of daring do, ultimately requiring some pretty unconvincing Green Screen effects. Prior to season 4 the show was respectable because the actors did a pretty decent job of moving and coordinating tactically
I especially found humor in the episode where Red Team was on joint ops with the Green Berets. The Green Berets were portrayed as clueless and clumsy victims of friendly fire, who were badly in need of saving by the SAS. Being a UK show, I have no qualm with Red Team always being portrayed as the cool kids in every episode. On the other hand, if the show's creators actually felt confident then they wouldn't have to go that way, would they?
Make no mistake, the badged members of SAS are awesome, but there are other awesome special-operators out there as well. No sense making a spitting contest out of the question of superiority. All one big happy family.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For a series on 22 Regiment.... its quite good. Yet it has its flaws.
Anyone who has read books by Ryan, McNab, Horsefall (all aliases) and of coarse the legends of 'Paddy' Blair Maine, De le Billiere will enjoy it. Warning, don't expect too much! Firstly some of the technical stuff has been changed for the obvious reason that certain strategic data cannot be revealed on television. Chris Ryan has done a good job as technical adviser and protected the essentially secret and surprise tactics. Anyone who has followed the history of the Regiment or has served know what I mean.
The good thing is, there's no grandiose bravado and over pepped up scenes like in most movies about 'other' special forces...... that make it look like Batman and Robin are kitting up to save the world. The other good thing is, no one on this series is 'invincible' or comes across as a 'super-soldier'..... the directors got one thing right which most others don't get.... special assignment combat troops are not 'The Terminator'. they are flesh and blood, make mistakes, rely on each other..... in short, ordinary men, in extraordinary circumstances, performing the necessary. To those of you who didn't get that, well go watch "The Guns of Navarone" very carefully again.
One thing that most people should take from this series is what it shows in certain episodes. People are over eager to condemn good soldiers as senseless butchers who 'love to kill'. This may be true in some instances, but that's a limited exception. They do what they do because they're trained for it. Guys forgive me for the comparison but, people love Dobermans and rothweilers......despite the fact that they can rip a man apart. yet you have them as guard dogs. Same with special troops. We need them We can afford to condemn them in a self-righteous manner when the goings good. When we're the hostages, we thank God for having men more brutal and lethal that the terrorist. This comes out in the episode with the tribunal. Its easy to talk technicalities when you're safe and not the one looking down the wrong end of a barrel. Who dares wins, yet who hesitates, dies.
As for the characters, its only to be expected that they'll be like this, after all this is a series, not a documentary. So one may have to ignore the mushy stuff and the clichéd character portrayals etc... to comment on the actors would be fruitless.... they did the best job they could so live with it...
Although the traditional aspect of the Regiment were brought out, the close knit bond, closing off your emotions to death so that the job gets done, the difference between officers who look out for their men and the old school 'Ruperts', the devil's in the nightmares, the fear of going 'US' or 'unserviceable', the strain on the home front. These were the real aspects that were brought out. The romantic affairs etc....cest la vie.
One particularly fascinating scene was when the men line up and salute the out-going officer. That whole scene conveys so much as to what the heart of the SAS is about. Now that is the act of gentlemen soldiers. Scenes like that, speak more for the Regiment than the whole series itself.
The plots may seem unbelievable but some of them are very real situations which have come up during the history of the Regiment. The plots borrow heavily from Ryan's books, who in turn has taken the situations from past campaignes. Notice the lack of 'let's stop dooms-day' plots. That's because... they rarely happen. Hostage situations, airline hijacks, embassy sieges, and the various black-ops are part of the Regiments 'legends'.
The woman in the SAS was a nice idea but I wonder how many women can tackle the Brecan Beacons? If there are any, then perhaps 22 should reconsider because 'She dared, she should win'. And speaking of the Beacons... why weren't they shown in the episodes about selections?
In conclusion, it is a shame that the series was limited to the exploits of Red troop. It would have been nice to see both Red and Blue in action together or better still, to see more action from A B or D squadron. I'd love to see "Land of Fire" and "The Watchman" made into a movie! So.... when are they going to do that?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Giving this show a rating is quite difficult and I've found myself torn
between where to place my vote. You see, Ultimate Force had 2 fantastic
seasons, (1 & 2), and then rapidly went downhill.
Based on Seasons 1 and 2 however I find it hard to give it too low of a rating - they were excellent. However, having seen so many reviews and comments complaining about accuracy it feels like it is necessary to point out this is not a documentary, it's fiction and with fiction comes a need to let the odd inaccuracy slide once in a while. That said of course, Chris Ryan didn't do the worst job in the first two seasons and while anyone can figure out a lot was held back, they tried to give it a decent feel of reality.
Seasons 1 and 2 followed the original Red Troop cast through a nice variety of story lines, from bank sieges, surveillance and infiltration to kidnappings and hostages, even throwing in a little black bag along the way. You were shown the discipline and the characters actions had a large degree of precise accuracy to them. They shot to kill, they didn't miss and they were good at what they did. Unfortunately, this didn't carry on until the shows end.
Season 3 began with the vast majority of the original cast being removed - Jamie Dow (Jamie Draven), Pete Twamley (Tony Curran) and Ricky Mann (Danny Sapani) were all killed off with their faces covered and poor voice doubles while Caroline Walshe (Alex Reid) was nothing but an empty desk and a mention of having been transferred and this marked the beginning of the end.
The feeling of precision and high standards disappeared almost instantly. Rebecca Gallagher (Heather Peace) joined Red Troop as a trooper after going through selection which was hard enough to deal with - you can ask an audience to suspend a little disbelief but suddenly asking them to believe that a woman is let into the SAS is taking it a little too far. The season felt like the production company hoped that a woman who was happy to appear naked and often topless would boost ratings and if that failed they'd try to grab the extra viewers by tripling the explosions. Episodes turned into 10 minute long scenes of explosions and firefights where they appeared to just run into a room and start shooting, often just filling the area with ammo till someone died.
Season 4 seemed to be so desperate to claw back some respect that the writers came up with more and more ridiculous plots, more terrible FX and an even longer list of 'witty one liners', finally culminating in the most ridiculous of all.
While some may find it hard to stomach that SSgt Henno Garvie would shoot a Captain in cold blood (#2.6 Dead is Forever) and thus prove that there was nothing he would stop at to protect the men around him, it's even harder to believe that a recently nearly blinded sniper cuts the wire on the timer of a nuclear bomb with a bullet while his SSgt hangs upside down off of a crane holding onto said bomb 200 feet above the ground....with 1 second left on the clock. All with terrible green-screening and superman jokes.
Let's also not forget the recycled casting from the same episode, (#4.5 Slow Bomb), when the American female terrorist is the same actress that played Marisol, a member of the global action group attempting to kill a European banker in Season 1, (#1.2 Just a Target).
So while I have given Ultimate Force a hearty 8/10 this is based purely on Seasons 1 and 2 and still even now, years later, would recommend them to anyone. They had a great cast with fantastic chemistry, well developed characters, interesting plot-lines and for the ladies, yes Jamie Draven in SAS gear, (the latter alone would make me give it a 10/10 if I wasn't trying to be fair). If I were to rate Seasons 3 and 4 however, it would barely scrape a 4/10 - and that would probably only be for the few flickers of promise that flashed through once in a blue moon - they just unfortunately didn't last.
A shame really, it started so well.
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