DRIV­ING FORCE

Get ready for a dif­fer­ent kind of big bang the­ory with the ex­plo­sive new ac­tion se­ries Back. Guy Davis stepped in the line of fire.

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On top of that, it has a charis­matic star turn by Richard Ar­mitage ( from Robin Hood and, yes, Spooks) as Porter, a tough-as-nails ac­tion man who’s part war­rior, part pro­tec­tor.

Porter is a man adrift when Strike Back be­gins, hav­ing left the SAS af­ter an in­ci­dent in Bagh­dad seven years ear­lier – when he made the fate­ful de­ci­sion to dis­arm rather than kill a young sui­cide bomber – left most of his unit dead and his rep­u­ta­tion in tat­ters.

Work­ing as a se­cu­rity guard, he is stunned to see the teenager whose life he spared is now one of the hard­ened ter­ror­ists re­spon­si­ble for the kid­nap­ping of a jour­nal­ist in Iraq.

Seek­ing re­demp­tion, Porter calls upon his friend and for­mer com­rade Hugh Collinson ( Andrew Lin­coln), now the head of the covert unit “ Sec­tion 20”, to get him re­in­stated and back into the battle.

Nat­u­rally enough, once Porter is in the thick of it in the Mid­dle East­ern war zone, he dis­cov­ers that he was gravely mis­taken about what he thought ac­tu­ally hap­pened to his unit seven years ear­lier. And as Strike Back pro­gresses through a num­ber of dif­fer­ent mis­sions in dif­fer­ent hot spots around the globe, he gets closer and closer to the truth.

Of course, that jour­ney to­wards the truth is punc­tu­ated by the kind of stuff that makes a show like this so thrilling, such as dra­matic raids, pre­ci­sion as­saults and dar­ing es­capes. That said, it also presents the odd stom­ach­turn­ing scene of water­board­ing, whip­ping and hands be­ing sev­ered, so be warned.

Strike Back is re­ally tra­di­tional Boy’s Own stuff with a high-tech, high-im­pact attitude, but it’s put to­gether and per­formed with such panache that any of the tried-and-true clichés don’t seem to mat­ter all that much.

Ar­mitage, who has ably played heroes and vil­lains with equal de­grees of skill and di­men­sion, is a com­pelling lead, con­vey­ing au­thor­ity and abil­ity with­out suc­cumb­ing to bland heroic pos­tur­ing.

And he’s well-sup­ported by Lin­coln, whose Collinson just might be hid­ing some­thing be­hind his re­spectable facade, and a top-shelf cast of UK ac­tors in­clud­ing Toby Stephens, Colin Salmon, Jodhi May and Alexan­der Sid­dig.

Given the pres­ence dis­played by Ar­mitage in the lead role, and the way Strike Back’s fi­nale leaves things open-ended enough for fu­ture ad­ven­tures, it’s a lit­tle sad that the ac­tor won’t be star­ring in the re­cently an­nounced sec­ond sea­son of the show. ( He ac­cepted a size­able role in The Hob­bit, Peter Jack­son’s pre­quel to the Lord of the Rings tril­ogy, so it’s per­haps un­der­stand­able.)

But Aus­tralian view­ers may be pleased to learn that our own Sullivan Sta­ple­ton, seen in An­i­mal King­dom, has taken on the lead role in the new Strike Back se­ries, so there’s a good chance the next round of ex­plo­sive ex­ploits will have a hero just as com­mand­ing.

On a mis­sion: Richard Ar­mitage meets some in­ter­na­tional con­flict in Strike Back.

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