I wanted to make a comparison between the two series in which Richard plays an SAS soldier / officer. And , since I didn’t mind Strike Back at all, I was ready to re- watch ITV   Ultimate Force (2003). Good God! I had completely removed the silliness of the entire thing! I was just shocked and angry in the end. Furious ! And only when I was,  I remembered it was not the first time! Did British television really broadcast that stuff? Unbelievable and unacceptable!

SAS soldiers overeager to shoot on any possible occasion, ready to lie and to find a capegoat to conceil their mistakes , the regiment before anything or anyone else , catastrophic family relationship but … yeah … they are tough guys , no frailty must be shown. Plenty of aggressiveness and high-handedness, uncaring attitude towards the application of the law, personal revenge. MAD DOGS, indeed (it is the title of one of the episodes). I know this show was meant for lads but such uneducative, immoral, distorted messages should not be sent to any audience, least of all to our youth. I know most of the people who take up a military career must be something like that, but please, don’t glorify them on a TV show!

I don’t like Henno (Ross Kemp) at all! Did his wife leave him? Well done! Doesn’t he say he married her only for her teets? Unbearable! Then? He shouts all the time giving order here and there even when he is not on duty. He ‘s ready to … no more precisely , he lies to the tribunal judges in the first episodes but he can’t bear any betrayal to him or to his friends. In that case he decides what justice is and do justice himself. Just a puffed –up, megalomaniac , crazy but lucid bloke. Blonde MI5 female agent, you are warned. Ex –wife, you just did the right thing!

I don’t like Pete, Laura’s husband. He’s in troubles, shocked and traumatized, removed from ops . He nearly kills his wife in his sleep, he’s paranoic, crazy, violent. I found it difficult to sympathize with him and with his silly wife. Henno helps him, of course. Even his wife – apart from a brief affair with kind- blue-eyed- Ian-Richard– is there always patient to him, everybody’s there for him. I found him unbearable, instead. He is even reactivated after a while though still mentally unstable. He refuses to undergo therapy: he is a man, after all, an SAS soldier, not a maid! I think he is just an irresponsible. He and his friends who cover the truth. They don’t help him at all, in fact.

I didn’t like any of the plots in  the 6 episodes. After watching 8 series of Spooks and the new Sky 1 Strike Back,  I may be a little spoilt or too demanding. But this series was utterly … crap! Chris Ryan collaborated to the scripts in the first two series but then he left. He was certainly scandalized by the unrealistic twists the story was taking. Most of the cast too left in series 3, maybe the scripts were becoming even more absurd.

 Ian Macalwain is not an easily likeable character and he's nothing like Richard, but as a thoroughful talented actor,  he did is best in that situation too. Macalwain is the new arrival in the Red Troop, he has to substitute the previous captain all the guys there used to like very much. Not an easy task.
He doesn’t want to be liked, actually.He wants to be respected and obeyed,  since he’s been appointed the new responsible of the troop. All the men, instead, start working against him, ignoring his orders, especially Henno.

No one better than Richard can find the right words to describe what he had in mind while acting in UF:

“Macalwain is not a bad guy, but he is a bit edgy. I don't think I am anything like him, which is why it is interesting to play him. He's eloquent with a sharp tongue and can humiliate people in an argument, which was really enoyable to play. He comes in as a captain and throws his weight around.

Macalwain begins to grow close to Laura, the wife of one of his men, Pete Twamley. Although ultimately it is she who seduces him by coming to his hotel room, he is soon so deeply involved with her that he is prepared to give up his career to take her away from her violent husband. Horrified, she pulls back, not wanting to leave Pete. But Macalawain is unable to accept this, believing that eventually she will come away with him.

By this time, Henno has found out that Macalwain has slept with Twamley's wife - the ultimate betrayal in his eyes. In the final episode, he takes matters into his own hands during a mission to rescue Colonel Dempsey, the regiment's commanding officer”. (from www.richardarmitageonline.com)

Henno takes matters into his hands ?!? Would you say that a cool blood murder ,with final mocking hiding of the corpse in a freezer and  knowing smiling looks from all the members- officers- included,  is TO TAKE MATTERS INTO ONE’S HAND? Who do they kill? Ian of couse. And why? Because he left Pete’s wife seduce him!

As I told you at the beginning of this post I was just astonished and furious. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The series closes that way. At the beginning of series 3 none of them takes their comeuppance. Nothing happens!

What is the main  difference between Ultimate Force and Strike Back? A great one, indeed. On a shallow note, Richard has greatly improved his look recently. But, seriously, everything sounds more realistic and more human in Sky 1 new series. John Porter is a killing –machine but in order not to suffer for what he does, he kind of suspends reality, dissociate himself from his own actions while killing and, especially, never seems overeager or excited to do it. It just seems an unavoidable cruel necessity to him. He’s got feelings, regrets, nightmares for what he does. He’s got frailties and flaws. The characters responsible for killings and massacres in SB suffer from great or little sense of guilt, but they recognize their mistakes: John Porter, , Gerald Baxter, Collinson himself in the end. The attempt to give a soul to a war killing machine like John Porter was a successful one. It made him someone bearing a torment, someone who needs to atone, someone you can even forgive for his crimes. You’ve got the idea that war is sufference and death, not a game. That’s what counts more to me.

Awfully done, ITV. Well done, Sky one!

P.S. 1
It seems Strike Back will take part to Rome Fiction Festival next July. Let’s see if Italian Press will notice its talented protagonist. Fingers crossed for any news coming out!

P.S. 2
Have you seen SB DVD extras? There’s a long interesting interviews with the crew and Richard says lots of thoughtful things about his experience. I just love listening to him talking about his work and his characters.

Many thanks to my friend Karen for her snappies from Ultimate Force, to www.richardarmitageonline.com for the precious info about Richard's work and to www.richardarmitagenet.com for their incredible screencap gallery.


Phylly3 said...

Great review MG!! I have only a few clips of Ultimate Force and so I really didn't know much about Richard's character in that show. I did see the screen cap of his body in the freezer and I was shocked by that!!
I am glad you could appreciate Strike Back, as so many of his fans don't like the action genre. I like any genre that is done well, and it sounds like Strike Back was pretty good!
I would watch Richard Armitage in absolutely anything, but I DO want him to have a happy ending.
I can even see the bright side of Sparkhouse!:)
Have a great weekend!

Phylly3 said...

correction: "I have only SEEN a few clips..." Sorry!

Maria Grazia said...

First of all, Phylly, it was not only the end. It was the entire series. Wrong, completely wrong. The worst side of the military in a very bad show. The final lucid murder in cold blood of an officer, a human being they simply didn't like, was just otrageous and made me furious. But they started doing awful things from the first episode and nothing never happened to them. Many people were killed because of their wrong actions and none of them paid or felt any sense of guilt. No, thanks, unacceptable. I only saw it to make a comparison with SB but this is obviously the last time and there is no comparison at all.
Thank you , Phylly. Enjoy your weekend. Take care. MG

Unknown said...

I can't agree more with you on this awful subject, MG: you've expressed my exact feelings - mainly anger, I must say - about UF!
I don't think I'll rewatch this series, not even for RA's sake: I needed a double dose of Harry J Kennedy, GoG ser. 2 and John Thornton to recover from the dreadful experience of watching UF :(
Have a nice w-e everyone,

tyme_4_t said...

MG - you hit the nail on the head with your review of UF! Ultimate Failure!!!

I watched the eps with Richard in them a few months ago and was really hoping that I had discovered a new show to watch - NOPE!

There are enough vids & pics out there to satisfy any inkling I may have to see RA in rugby shorts or a towel - those were the BEST parts of the series! *wink wink*

Maria Grazia said...

@Karen@ tyme_4_t
I'm glad you agree and I just wonder, is there someone who could like that TV show? I hope very few, for mankind's sake!
Thanks for commenting and have a great weekend!

Fanny/iz4blue said...

You put it very well Maria. I did watch the whole 5th series only for Richard's sake. The introduction of his character was the best part. I think the point of the series is that they are dysfunctional. My perception was that His character followed the rules and hence didn't fit in. In the end he had obvious control issues too the way he assumed Carol would break up her marriage.
In any case the best bits are on YT. I'll confess to watching that towel bit several times but mainly for his facial expressions.
btw I did watch The Strike Back DVD extra's: great indeed most of it I had seen on their website. Production value to sum it up in one word.
Looking forward to how Rome will respond!

Maria Grazia said...

Hi! Glad you stopped by and commented. Yes, you are right, Ian is sort of an outcast in their group especially because he wants to act by the book. You mention the bits of UF on Utube but, you can understand better those scenes only if they are contextualized. Laura is absurd, too. She goes there in search of some... attention from Ian, she is the one who starts the game then ... well, let's stop here.
I also saw the SB clips on the site but, the interviews in the DVD contain new materials, other statements which were not there.
Finally, Strike Back at Rome Fiction Festival...there will be a hundred series taking part in the event. How much attention will each of them receive? Will someone from the cast be here to present it? We are all ears and eyes to discover that! Fingers crossed. Have a very good weekend!