Ten steps above

Richard Armitage as John Porter – Strike Back “Zimbabwe”

In a previous post I wrote about the awkward way I was watching “Strike Back” chapters, starting from the last two of the series, Afghanistan. I’ve watched already the previous four, this time in chronological order and, I can’t help having a sour sweet sensation in my mouth (figuratively speaking, of course). No doubt about which is one of the components of the sweet part, you just have to watch the above screencap. The sour one has to do with the same awkward sensation I had watching Spooks 8: Richard is several steps above those scripts.

I have updated my list of RA TV works to watch, and, as I scroll the “done” roles, in my opinion only John Stranding, John Thornton and Claude Monet can look Richard straight in the eyes (Peter MacDuff also, but if you put all his scenes in Macbeth togehter we are talking of no more than a ten minutes’ performance).

CV copy

Fortunately not everything is lost in Strike Back; there are some scenes in which Richard offers us his best acting skills. In the “Irak” chapter his scenes with Katie together in the cells and during the torture, in the “Zimbabwe” one the heartbreaking webcam conversation with his daughter, and in “Afghanistan” the final scene with Collinson.

trust me
Wallpaper made with screencaps of the “Irak” chapter
John talks with his daughter…
… and cries

I have read in several interviews that Richard prepares consciously every single role, and that even writes a sort of biographies of the character. I guess he wrote a big deal about John Porter; as I watched the last chapters first, I thought that in the previous ones I would have learned more about the years of hell after being discharged from the army, beyond an absurd haircut (I guess that together with Javier Bardem Richard has the record of awful haircuts on screen) and a dirty jumpsuit. Instead there are just hints, family troubles, an obsession with what happened in Irak. Fortunately Richard did his homework well and we can understand what John Porter suffered when he tells Collinson:


Everyone blaming me, the regiment, the families… seven years… […] This will come out. Disgrace to the uniform. Criminal trial. Wrath of the victims’ families. The sick feeling in your stomach when you realise that your own family have lost all respect for you.

Richard delivers these lines almost without moving a muscle in his face, rendering Porter’s feelings through his eyes and soft tone of his voice, that cracks a little when referring to the family.

After Collinson’s reply, his anger rises and, driven by wrath and hate, almost chokes him with his arm.


After the fury, Porter just wants to know why happened that night, pleading for an answer.


On hearing Collinson, the wrath and the plea fades into a mix of feelings: contempt, disgust, but also pity.

pity contempt

That is one of those scenes that can be watched twenty times over, discovering every time something new. It would be unfair not to mention Andrew Lincoln, it takes two to make scenes like this work.

And now? What will be my next subject in RA studies? I think that, for the moment, I will wait very very anxiously for John Proctor. I’m sure Richard has succeeded in  the difficult task of watching him straight in the eyes.

studying position
Johns at home

2 thoughts on “Ten steps above

  1. Chuckling over Javier Bardem’s awful haircut. Would you be thinking of “No Country For Old Men”? I couldn’t watch it but I heard all about the hilariously heinous coiffure…

    1. And should we talk about “The Counsellor”? Or the James Bond movie? I’m sure Javier has an special article in his Hollywood contracts:
      – Heinous haircut $5,000

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