Sunday, November 23, 2008

Events Occur In Real Time

Eighteen months after the conclusion of 24's sixth season, the series continued with 24: REDEMPTION, a two-hour TV-movie designed to set up Season Seven, which was postponed due to 2008's Writer's Guild strike.

Three years after Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) saved the United States from war with the Russians and the Chinese, he appears to have found some peace in the African nation of Sangala, where he helps his old Special Forces buddy Benton (Robert Carlyle) run a boys school. That serenity is shortlived, however, when soldiers belonging to Colonel Juma (Tony Todd, recently on CHUCK) come around to kidnap Benton's boys as involuntary recruits into Juma's army.

While Bauer dodges State Department representative Frank Trammell (Gil Bellows, almost unrecognizable), who's trying to serve Jack with a subpoena to testify before a Senate subcommittee, and get the children to safety behind the U.S. embassy's bars, back home in Washington, the newly elected President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) prepares for inauguration, replacing Noah Daniels (Powers Boothe). Her son Roger (Eric Lively) figures into an unresolved subplot involving a pill-addled co-worker and government bigwig Hodges (an oily Jon Voight), who's financing Juma's revolution.

Despite the busy recap, REDEMPTION is actually light on plot and is mainly a chase movie showcasing Bauer's and Benton's desperate attempt to get their boys to the embassy before the last chopper leaves. Told in real time, Howard Gordon's teleplay keeps the suspense level high, aided by Jon Cassar's marvelous direction that includes epic action sequences of a scope rarely attempted on network television. Bauer's crackerjack shootout with Juma's men stands out as one of 24's most exciting scenes, and the production is given a tremendous boost through Fox's decision to film on location in South Africa. Cassar, cinematographer Rodney Charters and composer Sean Callery provide the film with a much-needed change of pace from the series' usual Los Angeles alleys and antiseptic government buildings.

Though the consensus is that 24's sixth season was among its worst, the REDEMPTION title applies not only to Jack Bauer, but also this movie, which demonstrates there's plenty of punch left in the bowl. 24's seventh season premieres January 11, 2009, less than two months after REDEMPTION aired on Fox.

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