Echo 3 on Apple TV: Is it based on a true story, and where was it filmed?

Luke Evans leads a strong cast in this explosive thriller

 Michiel Huisman and Luke Evans in Echo 3
(Image credit: Apple TV/Future)

Kidnap, revenge, and a rising body count are all on the cards for Apple TV’s military thriller.

Echo 3, released on Apple TV on November 23, is the latest action-packed thriller to get audiences talking. The 10-part series comes from Academy Award winner Mark Boal, the mind behind The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Set in South America, the drama begins with scientist Amber Chesborough, who goes missing along the Colombia-Venezuela border. The beating heart of a tight-knit family, Amber’s brother, Bambi, and husband, Prince, struggle to find her. Both men have strong military experience, but also complex pasts. Just to complicate things further, there’s an explosive secret war going on, while the desperate men search for the woman who means so much to them. Read on to find out if the series is based on a true story, and filming locations of the latest must-see.

Elsewhere on Apple TV, singer Selena Gomez recently released an intimate documentary about her life and struggles, in Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me (opens in new tab).  The renowned performer opened up about her struggles with chronic mental health and autoimmune disorder, and how they've affected her (opens in new tab). For a film recommendation on the streamer, Zac Effron stars in an adaption of an incredible true story in The Greatest Beer Run Ever (opens in new tab)

Is Echo 3 on Apple TV based on a true story?

Echo 3 is not based on a true story, but has been adapted from the 2008 Israeli novel When Heroes Fly by Amir Gutfreund. The book does contain some real historical elements. 

According to Esquire (opens in new tab), the book begins after the Six-Day War, or the Third Arab-Israeli War, in June of 1967. The war saw Israel capture the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Old City of Jerusalem, and Golan Heights, bringing mass casualties despite its short length. The novel follows five boys and one girl growing up in a working-class apartment block in Haifa, northern Israel. Covering the real historical elements, Gutfreund explores their impact on the adolescence of his fictional characters. A time jump sees the five men living very different lives in America, having to reunite to rescue the girl from a religious cult.

The book saw its first television adaptation in 2018, with the series When Heroes Fly. Four men featured in this version rather than five, and they were veterans of the 2006 Lebanon war rather than the Six-Day War. The Echo 3 version of the story has been adapted even further. There are now only two men, and their nationalities have been changed to American. The new series offers an exploration of American military strategy and undercover operations in developing nations, something writer Mark Boal has experience of in his other hit military films.

Luke Evans in Echo 3 on Apple TV

(Image credit: Apple TV)

Where was Echo 3 filmed?

Echo 3 was filmed in Atlanta and Colombia. In Colombia, Bogota and Cartagena were predominantly used. Filming in Atlanta began on June 9, 2021, before moving to Colombia mid July and wrapping there on February 1, 2022.

Mark Boal spoke to TV Fanatic (opens in new tab) about the choice of filming location. He said “We spend a lot of our media and cultural attention looking at Eastern Europe and Middle Eastern Asia but Latin America, the amount of attention we pay is relatively out of balance to its importance and also I think that Colombia is a fascinating country”. He added “It’s a country I fell in love with, its complicated and dark history. So, these seemed like pretty good reasons to develop material down there.” 

Michiel Huisman also weighed in on the location and filming experience, in an interview with Comic Book (opens in new tab).  He said “I think to me shooting Echo 3 felt more like shooting 10 independent movies. We were really there on location. We never shot on a stage or anything. We spent about eight months in Colombia. We traveled from Bogota to the jungle to Cartagena in the north of the country and ended up shooting on the islands and it felt like we were always on our toes and trying to catch on to wherever the story was taking us. ” Amber Chesborough actress Jessica Collins shared a reel to her Instagram page, showing the cast in Colombia, having fun on set and in an area with beautiful, multi-coloured houses. 

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Echo 3: Cast

  • Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones, The Flight Attendant) as Prince
  • Luke Evans (The Hobbit, Beauty and The Beast) as Bambi
  • Jessica Ann Collins (Zero Dark Thirty, Clickbait) as Amber Chesborough
  • Elizabeth Anweis (Sugar, From Scratch) as Natalie Foster
  • Fahim Fazli (Argo, Barry) as AL Qaeda Commander
  • James Udom (The Sandman, Judas and the Black Messiah) as Mitch
  • Maria Del Rosario (The Scent of Passion, The Stolen Daughter) as Graciella
  • Alejandro Furth (Law and Order True Crime, Barry) as Tomas
  • Juan Pablo Raba (Narcos, Six) as Ernesto 
  • Bradley Whitford (The Handmaid's Tale, Transparent) as Eric Haas
  • Martina Gusmán (White Elephant, The Innocent) as Violetta

Speaking to CBR (opens in new tab) about giving authentic military performances, Luke Evans said "We were around the real deal all the time. They were with us from day one. There were no excuses, no mistakes being allowed to happen. We were treated very seriously. We realized we weren't just going to be wearing a uniform or playing with guns; no, this is serious".

On working with directors Pablo Trapero and Mark Boal, Evans added "They work very well together, and it's always tense, that first episode because it's the clincher. It's the one that drags you in and one that the audience sees first. You need to establish everybody, and they get to know your character. There's a lot of pressure on the creative team to make sure that first episode really lands well, and I think we did a great job". 

Jessica Collins in Echo 3 on Apple TV

(Image credit: Apple TV )

Echo 3: Rotten Tomatoes

Echo 3 currently holds a 63% critic score on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Although many are generally favourable, some critics have found flaws with the series.

Sam Stone from CBR (opens in new tab) said "Boal is right back to crafting the military-oriented action thrillers he excels at, joined by a solid cast and some truly gripping action sequences. With a focus on complex character relationships, authenticity in contemporary politics, and strong performances from its leads, Echo 3 is another addition to Apple TV+'s growing library of prestige programming. While those who aren't noted fans of the genre may not be won over by the show, geopolitical action thriller enthusiasts will find plenty to enjoy in Echo 3".

Lauren Sarner from The New York Post (opens in new tab) was also positive, adding "The acting is solid, with Evans taking a believable turn as a brooding man who simmers with underlying emotion he can’t express (and the Welsh actor’s American Southern drawl is also convincing, to boot). The plot thrums with tension and urgency, and the action is consistent enough that it’s rarely boring, even if the story jumps around too much. And, to the show’s credit, it attempts to have more depth than a “shoot ’em up” story. Although Bambi and Prince (distractingly silly names) are the main characters, Amber isn’t just a damsel in distress, and she gets her own time to shine".

However, Chase Hutchinson from Collider (opens in new tab) wasn't too enamoured with the series, saying "For all the ways that Boal’s writing on The Hurt Locker managed to be both engaging and more honest about the nature of war, this latest story just never has the sharpness to pull off either. There is a good narrative and thematic core hidden in the middle of Echo 3, but all of that promise gets drowned by too many detours that compromise its overall mission".

Max Gao from AC Club (opens in new tab) was similarly unimpressed, adding "Collins, for her part, shines in the quiet moments and pulls off some death-defying stunts in the fifth episode in particular that will finally keep viewers, who might begin to care more about Amber’s quest for freedom, on the edge of their seats. But given that there simply isn’t enough characterization in the preceding episodes to justify a particularly deep investment in these people, one might feel largely ambivalent about Amber’s fate until halfway through the season—at which point the show, much like Amber, might be beyond saving".

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