A star rating of 2 out of 5.

Echo 3 may not begin as you imagine. Those looking for big action straight out the gates will be surprised, as following a brief hint towards things to come, we land slap bang in the most domestic of scenes - a big, extravagant wedding.

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It's our first sign that Echo 3 may not be as "high octane" as the show's synopsis purports, which is fine. In truth, the best action works well because we are invested in the characters and their relationships, we care about their stories and what happens to them. Unfortunately, that is not to be with Apple TV+'s new series.

In the show, which comes from The Hurt Locker scribe Mark Boal, Luke Evans plays Bambi, the bride's brother at this aforementioned wedding. Meanwhile, Michiel Huisman plays the groom, Prince.

When the bride, a brilliant young scientist called Amber Chesborough, is kidnapped near the Colombia-Venezuela border, the two men, both active special forces operatives, spring into action in a bid to rescue her.

Michiel Huisman and Luke Evans in Echo 3
Michiel Huisman as Prince and Luke Evans as Bambi in Echo 3. Apple TV+

The biggest problem with Echo 3 is just how generic it all feels. All of the characters are grim and brooding, with Bambi and Prince both being stock military types, just from different backgrounds.

After watching the first five episodes made available for review, I feel I know little about either of them as individuals, in spite of hints towards past trauma in Bambi's case. Evans and Huisman are fine in the roles, but there's no sense of a genuine bond between them and hints towards motivation aren't hugely engaging.

Of course, there's not going to be much room for laughter or lightness given the circumstances. But even before Amber's abduction, Huisman's chemistry with Jessica Ann Collins (Amber) falls slightly flat, and while Evans is steely and believable in the role, he's not particularly captivating in the way he has been previously.

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The other major issue is the story's structure, and the fact that across a 10-episode run this narrative is stretched far too thinly. The story of a personal recuse mission mixed in with political intrigue might work well in a tight 100-minute thriller, but spread across 10 hours? Come episode 3 you'll be balking at their lack of progress as the narrative grinds to a halt.

Luke Evans in Echo 3
Luke Evans as Bambi in Echo 3. Apple TV+

The series does try to avoid falling into stereotypes surrounding its Latin American characters, with a journalist played by Martina Gusmán getting her own, largely effective plotline, and Amber's kidnappers being giving more personal motivation and backstory than would usually be granted in this type of tale.

Unfortunately, all this does is once more slow down the plot and highlight the lack of character development granted to Prince or Bambi. The series also attempts to grapple with some weighty political themes - this is not in any way a jingoistic story of American military supremacy.

There is ambition there beneath the surface for the show to do something different and to expose the failings of US foreign policy. The story just never settles long enough on one thematic point for it to land a punch in the way it wants, with it instead introducing more characters and more ways for Bambi and Prince to be thwarted in their rescue attempts.

Jessica Ann Collins in Echo 3
Jessica Ann Collins as Amber in Echo 3. Apple TV+

The series's official synopsis places Amber as the main character, and it's unsurprising why - she is, after all, the thing that unites both Bambi and Prince, and her plight is the main driver of the story.

However, when it comes to screen time across the first five episodes, far more focus is given to Evans and Huisman's characters. A shame, given that the brightest light is undeniably Collins as Amber.

The first episode finds her trapped in the same box of clichés as her brother and husband, whether it's in her domestic or work life. A speech she makes on the use of psychedelics in medicine hardly screams groundbreaking medical exploration, more generic science babble.

It's after Amber's kidnapping that Collins really finds her groove. Amber's intelligence, determination and hardened resolve all come through in Collins's performance, as do her vulnerabilities and innate terror at the life and death situation she finds herself in.

Jessica Ann Collins in Echo 3
Jessica Ann Collins as Amber in Echo 3. Apple TV+

We see Amber's desperation for freedom, her own internal struggles and doubts about her relationships, with dialogue between Amber and her captors being a particular highlight. It's terrific work from Collins, and hopefully something we'll get to see more of in the back half of the season.

As with all Apple's original shows, the series is visually impressive, and some of the action is effectively heart-pumping, with bright spots jumping out of each of the episodes.

But even the magnificent Bradley Whitford, who has a small supporting role as Prince's father, gets lost in the jumble here - his performance grants a welcome blast of energy and levity to proceedings, but he has very little to do.

If the spark of greatness seen in Echo 3's later scenes with Amber takes off in the latter half of its run, and if it gains a tighter focus, then the series could become something special.

As it is though, this is a hugely uneven first batch of episodes, with too many story threads, characters lacking in substance, and a surprising deficit of energy, only reminding you of what could have been every time Collins's character is truly given the spotlight.

The first three episodes of Echo 3 are available on Apple TV+ now, with new episodes dropping weekly – you can sign up to Apple TV+ here.

If you’re looking for something to watch tonight, check out our TV Guide or Streaming Guide, or visit our dedicated Film hub for all the latest news.

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