When is a submarine thriller not just a submarine thriller? Well, in this case, when it’s also an allegory of right-wing American imperialism – which is definitely what I liked most about Last Resort. In this short-lived TV show (only 13 episodes were made), Andre Braugher stars as the captain of the USS Colorado who is forced off the grid when he becomes a pawn in an attempt by forces within the Washington military-industrial complex to take over the government.
The following review is offered as part of Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog.
With The Shield, Shawn Ryan probably created TV’s best police procedural since Homicide: Life on the Streets (well, until the debut of The Wire anyway). To play the lead in Last Resort, his oblique take on American imperialism masquerading as a seafaring nuclear thriller, Murphy got Homicide’s breakout star, the mighty Andre Braugher (supported by such Shield alumni as Jay Karnes and David Rees Snell). He plays the submarine captain trialling new radar-busting technology whose loyalty is sorely tested when ordered to nuke Pakistan. He is promptly branded a traitor and relieved of command, but when even his Lieutenant (Scott Speedman) asks for ratification, the sub gets shot at. Forced off the grid, they resurface at a NATO listening station on the island of ‘Sainte Marina’ (actually, Hawaii). There they face on-board mutinies and trouble on the ground from the locals while back in Washington politicians, arms dealers and families of the ‘mutineers’ scramble in what ultimately develops into an attempted coup d’état.
Despite clunky dialogue (maritime similes abound) and repetitive plotting to get the sub in jeopardy every week, there is also some smashing CGI (especially in the pilot, directed with his usual pizzazz by Martin Campbell, another Homicide veteran) and plenty of metatextual uplift in this topical riff on Crimson Tide and Seven Days in May for the Snowden, Assange and Chelsea Manning era.
Standout instalments include a chemical attack told in non-chronological order (incorporating a nice homage to Vertigo) and a genuinely nasty scenario where Pakistani commandos retaliate by taking hostage the visiting families of the crew. Despite swift cancellation, the nihilistic finale satisfyingly wraps up the story.
DVD Availability: Easy to find DVD or streaming options.
Director: Martin Campbell, Kevin Hooks, Michael Offer
Producer: Shawn Ryan, Jean Higgins
Screenplay: Shawn Ryan, Karl Gajdusek, Eileen Myers (and others)
Cinematography: Krishna Rao
Art Direction: James H. Spencer
Music: Robert Duncan
Cast: Andre Braugher, Daisy Betts, Scott Speedman, Camille De Pazzis, Jay Karnes, David Rees Snell