Tons of Action, Tons of Fun! by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
A high-octane, globe-spanning thriller with storylines ripped from today's headlines, Strike Back is a one-hour drama series that focuses on two members of a top-secret anti-terrorist organization known as Section 20: Michael Stonebridge, a British sergeant in the ultra secret Section 20 anti-terrorist team, and Damien Scott, a Delta Forces operative who was disgraced and discharged on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The 10-episode season follows Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) as they criss-cross the globe on the trail of a deadly international terrorist named Latif, who is planning a major attack involving a cache of WMD that could have global repercussions. Within the season-long arc involving the search for Latif (code-named "Project Dawn"), five separate adventures will be presented, each played out over two episodes. Sexy, suspenseful and action-packed, the series is set in exotic locations and has an abundance of twists and turns, as the two protagonists venture into New Delhi, Cape Town, Darfur and beyond to thwart the bad intentions of terrorists intent on bringing anarchy and destruction to our planet.
When Strike Back was first announced for DVD and Blu-ray, I did a bit of investigating and I discovered that this isn't really the first season of the show, it's the first season that appeared on Cinemax. Season 1 was only on Sky in the UK, and starred Richard Armitage (MI-5, Robin Hood) and Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead). It was a 6-part series that followed an incident that involved Porter (Armitage) and Collinson (Lincoln), and the quest for the truth. I hate not seeing all of something, so I imported a DVD from the UK to watch before watching this set.
After the success of the first season in the UK, Sky decided to partner with Cinemax, who was looking for a new series, for the second season; the two have also partnered on Hunted, a new show from Frank Spotnitz. This season is 10 episodes, and features two new leads for the series. I'm happy to say that you're not missing out on much if you aren't interested in importing the first season from the UK; they are separate stories, though the UK show is also a lot of fun to watch.
The 4 discs contain all 10 episodes from the first season:
I know the rating says 9/10, but it really should be 9.5/10. This is about as close as you can get without being perfect. The Widescreen (1.78:1) picture is nearly flawless, and is quite impressive. Black levels (which are important, as there are a number of night scenes) are wonderful, and there's very, very little noise in the picture. There are maybe 5 or so scenes that contain a bunch of noise, and it's the only thing preventing it from a perfect score. I also really like what the show has done with the subtitles (burned in, for non-English languages). Instead of the standard subtitles that appear at the bottom of the screen, they've worked them into the show, with a nice, large font. It doesn't have much to do with the Blu-ray, as it's part of the actual show, I just thought it was worth mentioning. There's a chapter placed after the opening of the episodes, and there's a "play all" on each disc as well.
You also get all the episodes on DVD (double-sided discs), and digital download. Yippee, I love that they include those now.
This English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is awesome, awesome, awesome! The only way this could be better is with a 7.1 mix. The bullets sound as though they're flying past your head, and the explosions will rock your house (my wife complained, numerous times). All the dialog is crystal clear, and the audio is nicely spread between all the speakers. It's just a wonderfully engaging mix. Besides the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, you'll find French, German, and Spanish tracks as well, plus subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.
Episode 2 - Daniel Percival, Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester
Episode 4 - Philip Winchester and Liam Cunningham
Episode 6 - Philip Winchester and Amanda Meating
Episode 8 - Daniel Percival and Sullivan Stapleton
Episode 10 - Daniel Percival, Sullivan Stapleton, Philip Winchester and Amanda Mealing
Wow, this show was a ton of fun. I've been a bit starved for action movies and TV shows lately, and this was just what I needed. I blasted through the UK season, and this set in a few days, foregoing sleep because I'd rather be watching this. The buddy relationship between Stonebridge and Scott was great; light-hearted at times, serious at other times. I absolutely loved the action as well, which could get a bit over-the-top at times. What I wasn't prepared for was all the sex they added this season, and now I understand why many refer to Cinemax as "Skinemax." There's quite a lot of it, and it certainly wasn't there in the UK-season. I also found it interesting that Frank Spotnitz was involved in the show, given that this is a British series, and he's an American. His name may sound familiar if you watched some of the Chris Carter shows like The X-Files, Millennium, The Lone Gunmen, or Harsh Realm, as he was involved in all those. He's moved to London and is now involved in British TV with Strike Back, and his new show, Hunted, is being produced over there. Very cool.
As much as I enjoyed the show, I was disappointed in the extras on this set. HBO produced this release, and I think this this has the fewest extras out of all their sets (certainly the ones that come to mind right now). Just commentary tracks, nothing else. The UK release, which came from 2Entertain, included a number of video features, though none of the commentaries we get on this set. I'd say the commentaries were okay, but they were far from being among the best I've heard.
If you like action movies and TV shows at all, definitely pick up Strike Back, and consider ordering the UK season as well.