Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review: 24: Redemption

Welcome back, little yellow digital clock counting down the time!

24: Redemption is a two hour telefilm created to bridge the gap between the sixth season of 24, which aired in 2007, and the seventh season, due to begin airing in 2009. The large gap between seasons was a side effect of the writers' strike.

The concept of 24 has always been that each season takes place over a single day, with each of its twenty-four episodes covering an hour in that day. 24: Redemption takes place over a two hour time period, fitting its running time.

Three and a half years after the events of the sixth season of 24, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is living in the fictional African country of Sangala at a school for orphans run by his friend, former British Special Forces soldier Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle). Bauer is running from his past as a ruthless counter-terrorist agent while trying to avoid being subpoenaed to testify before the US Senate about the activities of the now disbanded Counter Terrorist Unit (the government agency he worked for during the first six seasons).

At the same time, a coup lead by Sangala’s genocidal former dictator General Juma (Tony Todd) is about to begin, and his right hand man Colonel Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) is rounding up children to fight in Juma's militia. When Dubaku tries to kidnap the orphans at the school, it's up to Jack to save them and perhaps redeem himself.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, President-Elect Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) is being sworn into office as America's first female President while her son Roger (Eric Lively) tries to help his friend Charles (Sean Michael), who's found himself in the middle of a conspiracy lead by the powerful Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight) to back the coup in Sangala.

The teleplay by 24 showrunner Howard Gordon (a former writer/producer for The X-Files and Angel, and creator of the short-lived Strange World) takes the show's concept and successfully applies it on a smaller, more personal level, and as a result there's a freshness to it that was lacking in the sixth season. The storyline will continue into the seventh season, with a major change to the status quo of the previous six seasons.

24's politics have always been simplistic rubbish, but that's arguably true of the action-adventure/secret agent genre as a whole, and 24's have perhaps even improved some since the show's conservative co-creator Joel Surnow is no longer involved in its production and the more liberal Gordon is now firmly in charge.

Kiefer Sutherland has been nominated for six Emmy Awards, winning one, and six Screen Actors Guild awards, winning two, for his portrayal of Jack Bauer since 2001. He continues his intense portrayal here as he allows us to see just how emotionally damaged Bauer has become by his own ruthless actions and the loss of so many of his friends and loved ones over the decade of in-story time covered by the first six seasons. He remains the always watchable star of the franchise, even when you disagree with the character's politics (or the show's) and actions. Quite simply, he's the engine that makes 24 run.

If you're not a 24 fan, 24: Redemption isn't for you and probably won't make you one. If you are, you'll enjoy it and it'll get you stoked for the upcoming seventh season beginning January 11, 2009.

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