Tag Archives: Rhona Mitra

Last Ship on TNT: Subtlety held at Bay

The Last Ship

Adam Baldwin and Eric Dane (from left) star as the top-ranking officers aboard ‘The Last Ship,’ a summer thriller premiering tonight on TNT.

I can tell you nearly everything you need to know about The Last Ship, a TNT summer series premiering tonight, in four words: executive producer Michael Bay. The mastermind – I’m using the term very loosely here – behind the big-screen Tranformers movie franchise has earned a reputation for making movies in which bombastic action routinely trumps nuance and character development. While other directors focus on exploring the subtle emotional hues of a drama, Bay prefers to use crayons.
While he didn’t co-write or direct The Last Ship, this big, noisy action thriller is very much in keeping with Bay’s preferred style. The story opens about four months ago, as Cmdr. Tom Chandler (Eric Dane, Grey’s Anatomy) and his second-in-command, Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin, Chuck), embark with their crew of the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Nathan James for what they believe to be a four-month top-secret series of weapons tests in the Arctic. Also aboard the vessel is Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra), a paleomicrobiologist (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing, either), who tells Chandler she’s tagging along to look for bird-borne microbes in the polar ice.
After the four months are up, however, Chandler is surprised when he receives orders for the ship to stay put until further notice. He becomes far more suspicious when Rachel, while collecting ice samples, and her party are attacked by a squadron of Russian military helicopters. Once everyone is back aboard the ship, Rachel reluctantly tells Chandler the whole truth: She’s desperately seeking the “primordial strain” of a mystery virus that has caused a devastating pandemic. While deaths had been limited to cluster groups in Africa and Asia when their ship departed four months ago, in the interim billions have died, and an estimated 80 percent of Earth’s population is infected.
With millions more dying by the day, world order has collapsed. The president of the United States is dead. No one is answering the phones at the Pentagon. Governments have fallen. As one politician tells Chandler by videophone, civilization no longer is made up of allies and enemies, just desperate individuals willing to do anything to survive.
Rachel is mankind’s best hope, if she can devise a vaccine against the mystery plague. But she knows the virus may be mutating, so if she does come up with a serum, will it already be obsolete? There’s no one she can reach in the medical community to give her updates.
As central premises go, this one is a doozy: These people are trying to save the world, yet exactly what kind of world are they saving? If The Last Ship had been willing to explore some of the myriad moral and ethical ambiguities the story invites, especially as considered by characters of some real depth and complexity, this series might have been something very special.
Unfortunately, we’re left with cardboard heroes trying to outfox stock cartoon villains: al-Qaeda terrorists! Those damn Russkies! Velociraptors! (OK, I made up that last one, but then, I’ve only seen the first three episodes).
The Last Ship is what it is, a handsome, deafening, fast-paced video game, where characters we care little or nothing about get thrust into one deadly situation after another, usually while grabbing one another by the shoulders and screaming, “YOU DON’T GET TO PLAY GOD!” or something like that. Taken on those terms, it’s definitely not boring, and John Pyper-Ferguson even manages to interject some critically needed quirkiness into the poker-faced proceedings as a former Guantanamo guard who joins the team in episode two. His name is Tex. As, of course, it would be.
If The Last Ship were a meal, it would be a bloody steak and a tall glass of scotch. If that’s what you’re in the mood for on a hot summer night, it must might hit the spot.
The Last Ship

Travis Van Winkle (‘Hart of Dixie’ ) co-stars as heroic Lt. Danny Green in TNT’s new summer series ‘The Last Ship.’

New on Blu-ray: ‘Strike Back: Cinemax Season Two’

Philip Winchester, Rhona Mitra, Sullivan Stapleton (from left)
Just last week, I wrote about the new Blu-ray release of the first season of Banshee, but it was Strike Back that earlier established an original action series beachhead on Cinemax. The latter, which follows the exploits of a covert British terrorism unit called Section 20, isn’t quite as fascinatingly quirky as Banshee, but it’s tightly written, directed and edited enough to please any fan of the genre.
When I say “written,” I do so in a limited sense, because virtually every episode is divided into three parts: prepping for a potentially deadly confrontation, trying to survive the deadly confrontation and taking stock after the deadly confrontation. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for character development, but then, action movie fans generally don’t tune in to watch the adversaries talk about their feelings.
As in season one, the main focus is on two special agents. The first, Sgt. Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester), left the unit at the end of last season to repair his damaged marriage, so he is training recruits at a military base as the season opens. Unfortunately, that seemingly innocuous routine results in an accident that, in turn, leads to an incident that shatters Stonebridge’s life.
Meanwhile, former CIA hit man Sgt. Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) has been dispatched on what is supposed to be a standard security mission that takes a terrifying turn when this season’s MacGuffin – a box of four nuclear triggers – falls into the wrong hands. When he hears that Scott is in deadly peril, Stonebridge drops everything and rushes to help save him, with their joint mission eventually coming under the command of Section 20’s new boss, Maj. Rachel Dalton (Rhona Mitra, not one of my favorite actresses, but your mileage may vary).
As the unit embarks on a frantic pursuit of those triggers, they fall into the hands of Karl Matlock (Vincent Regan), a decorated war hero turned soldier of fortune looking for a major score to finance his retirement from combat. Matlock sells the triggers to English billionaire Conrad Knox (Charles Dance), whose public image as a South African philanthropist is the perfect cover for a far more sinister scheme.
The banter-filled bromance between Scott and Stockbridge is a bonus for any viewers who may not be carnage-centric, but the acting is surprisingly good across the board. Due to the aforementioned upheaval in his own storyline, Winchester’s Stonebridge spends much of the season in a state of modified shock, but Stapleton continues to impress with all the wisecracker-y of a young Bruce Willis.
It’s the villains this season who are most compelling, though. Dance has been playing dapper heavies for a couple of decades now, and he does so again very effectively here. Regan, however, walks away with the season as the reluctant bad-guy Matlock, who has cracked under years of service left so unrewarded by the people in command. Special mention also goes to series regular Liam Garrigan as Sgt. Liam Baxter, the kind of loyal colleague any special agent with his life on the line wants as his point of contact back at command central.
Technically, this set is up to the usual lofty HBO Home Entertainment standard, but apart from audio tracks and subtitles in multiple languages, extras as somewhat sparse: just four commentary tracks, and be advised in advance they can get kind of confusing, since Stapleton, who plays the American Scott, is actually Australian, while Winchester, who plays the British Stockbridge, is American.
strike back cover