I've never read a Robert Ludlum novel, but I'm told (even by fans of the author) that they're pretty densely plotted, overtly topical, and more than a little convoluted -- which means that his TV mini-series, Covert One: The Hades Factor should fit comfortably into the author's canon: It's got a lot of plot to get through, it deals with the "hot button" issue of bio-terrorism, and it does a pretty good job of spinning around in circles in an effort to fill out its excessive running time.
Basically it's like an 165-minute episode of 24, what with Stephen Dorff's colonel / doctor / former spy doing all he can to trot around the globe and track down the source of the truly horrific "Hades virus." Only instead of Kiefer Sutherland's surly hero, we get ... Stephen Dorff and Mira Sorvino. And there's no ticking clock, which gives us plenty of time to visit with stuffed-shirt background characters like Evil Pharmaceutical Tycoon (Jeffrey DeMunn), Doomed Hottie (Sophia Myles), By-The-Book Boss (Danny Huston), Colorful Field Agent (Colm Meaney), and Lady President (Anjelica Huston).
There's exotic locales aplenty as Dr. Colonel Dorff butts heads with rogue agents, assassins, turncoats, and other assorted people, but The Hades Factor seems a little more interested in the "panic factor" that most TV productions love to employ; I'm sure the promos for this mini-series leaned extra-heavy on the "airborne death virus / Middle East terrorist attack!" material, and this is where The Hades Factor likes to linger: side characters coughing up blood inside while encased in plastic sleeves. Director Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard) certainly isn't shooting for subtlety, and the blatant attempts at topical nastiness start to get a little unseemly as the mammoth running time churns on. Plus, when it's not dealing with a chase or a manhunt, The Hades Factor is pretty darn boring.
Frankly I have no idea how they managed to stretch the whole "find that terrorist!" schtick into an 165-minute package -- and I just got done watching the thing. On a technical level, The Hades Factor is like a see-saw: Production value and action moments are pretty impressive ... but the script is limp and the performances are pretty darn vacant. (Only Meaney brings any real vigor to the proceedings.) But if you're a big fan of Ludlum-esque material (indeed, the Hades Factor DVD cover is a pretty blatant steal from The Bourne Identity) you'll probably be a bit more entertained than I was.
Video: The made-for-TV production is brought home in a rather impressive anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.0 Stereo, which delivers a pretty solid kick -- on the rare occasion when the movie exhibits half a pulse.
Extras: Just some Sony trailers.
I doubt even the hardcore Ludlum enthusiasts will find much to love here; I'm told this mini-series deviates pretty wildly from the source material -- and not in a particularly good way.