‘Toughest Forces On Earth’ Review: A Lack Of Excitement Makes Netflix’s Docu-Series Redundant

Netflix’s love for documentary series is unparalleled. Documentaries used to be rare watches. They were found on television channels dedicated to a specific topic. Netflix was one of the many OTT platforms that merged entertainment with educational documentaries that covered every kind of subject for people to watch. You name it, they have it. Toughest Forces on Earth is about three ex-armed forces men who are keen to do something adventurous. The Netflix deal just happened to fall on their laps, and their lives have changed ever since.


The 8-episode documentary series is all about the excitement of the hosts, Dean Stott, Cameron Fath, and Ryan Bates; all ex-armed forces men are given the chance to train with the elite armed forces of many countries around the world. They learn about combat skills by putting themselves to the test. The three men travel across the world in different terrains and topographies and expose themselves to extreme weather and situations that would help them make decisions based on the training and instincts developed as a result. Dean is a British man, while the other two are Americans, and they are extremely excited to be a part of this show, which will be released on the streaming platform on May 22, 2024.

There are several examples of the template followed by Toughest Forces on Earth. How to Become a Tyrant, How to Become a Cult Leader, This is Pop, and Spy Ops follow the format of exploring multiple examples under the same subject matter. All these documentaries are Netflix originals and have delivered a stunning show, as they managed to keep the audiences hooked on the subject till the end. Mind you, dictators and cult leaders are especially controversial, and to make sure the streaming service does not glorify it is a huge task for the makers to present a balanced narrative. This is the reason those two documentaries about the two different sets of obnoxious and narcissistic people made the splash, purely because of their content, engagement quality, and impeccable presentation skills. 


The same could not be said about Toughest Forces on Earth. Though there are audiences for shows like this one, which focuses on military action and how armies work around the world, one cannot neglect the fact that the documentary series glorifies the armed forces, which could be a slippery slope, keeping in mind the war raging in the Middle East. There is also a subtle element of jingoism, which is hard to ignore. The direction of the show is lazy because it fails to present a dignified version of what goes behind the training, and along with that, the engagement quality is nonexistent. Keeping in mind the countries the host visited, the cinematography could have been a lot better. The whole point of good cinematography is to make the subject matter interesting enough to generate discourse. Sports like basketball and Formula One had dwindling viewership, which got better thanks to some engaging documentary shows Netflix has produced. 

Toughest Forces on Earth takes the audience to Lebanon, Colombia, Mexico, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Arctic, Austria, and the United States of America. While the countries they visited add to the excitement, it dies down pretty early in the show, as there are hardly any details divulged in a manner that a layman could understand. The making of the show will make many of the audience wonder if the creators are condescending towards those who do not understand military jargon.


Toughest Forces on Earth could have been an easy watch if the hosts of the show had not been overly excited about the tasks assigned to them. If only the elation had been brought down a notch, the writing should have been about how military action is done in various countries of different climates and geographies. The writing of the show is also lazy, which only makes the viewing experience exhausting after a point. The template of getting into a task in every episode only made Toughest Forces on Earth redundant. Armed forces and their elite wings are the most fascinating groups that carry out many dangerous tasks. Sadly, the showmakers and their storytelling style are mechanical from the start. They sadly had to resort to a lot of cultural misappropriation, which included adding the quintessential Arabic music to showcase they were in a Middle Eastern country. We don’t get the need to do this since, lately, there has been discussion on why Middle Eastern countries are misrepresented. 

The host of the show dropped an infamous line of dialogue from Apocalypse Now by Robert Duvall’s character. The irony of quoting Apocalypse Now when the actual film was all about how prolonged wars have a dire effect on the locals and the army men who were far away from their homes and families. This show hardly spoke about the repercussions of staying away from families for a long time and the dire effects of PTSD. Some of the members of the elite force did speak about having to join the army to save their families from poverty. The members of the Mexican elite force refused to show their faces for obvious reasons, and this shows how these men put their lives at risk for the sake of the greater good. The sad part about the show has to be the treatment of the subject matter; it felt more like an action movie from the 1980s and 1990s than real-life combat training.


The hosts also gave off a vibe of over-enthusiastic middle-aged men who were extremely excited about the weapons. Toughest Forces on Earth has some terrifying title names for each episode, but the content is anything but that. However, the hosts could be given some credit for being willing to put their lives at risk and training themselves in the harshest of weather at the cost of falling sick during the shoot or, worse, dying during the tasks. The episodes, though, could have been shorter, as the repetitive nature of the content only made each one unnecessarily strenuous to watch.

The research on the show is appreciated, but overall, Toughest Forces on Earth is not an exciting watch solely because it never goes beyond surface-level writing. This made the show look very shallow, even though the subject matter is very interesting. 


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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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