Follow Us on Twitter

24: Redemption - Review

24: Redemption

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE three most exciting words in television right now must surely be “Jack is back!”

Jack, of course, is Jack Bauer, CTU agent and counter-terrorism expert whose life must rate among the most traumatic of any recent small screen hero.

Having saved America from the brink of nuclear meltdown, or – on a smaller scale – prevented innumerable presidential assassination attempts over the course of six days, Jack (played by Kiefer Sutherland) found himself on the cusp of a new era.

Redemption, a two-hour precursor to day seven, took place in an unnamed African country, where Jack was seeking refuge from the past with an old Special Forces friend, Carl Benton (played by Robert Carlyle).

It marked a watershed for the show in many ways and the redemption of the title was two-fold: redemption for Jack and Carl as they sought to atone for past misdeeds by helping orphaned African children, and redemption for the show itself following the disappointment of the hit-and-miss Day Six.

It also proved that the show could escape from its 24-hour structure to emerge as a similarly exciting one-off story if the show ever makes the long-anticipated leap to the big screen.

For sure, the layered characterisation and intricate plotting associated with the 24-episode format suffered slightly. But such is the affection with which viewers now hold Jack that it can sustain a two-hour one-off extended episode and still be every bit as enjoyable and exciting.

The new locations also provided a welcome breath of fresh air, while plenty of seeds were sewn for the approaching seventh season – most notably with events in Washington, where a new lady President (Allison Jones) was being sworn, just as her son was becoming unwittingly embroiled in yet another sinister conspiracy (led by Jon Voight).

The bulk of events took place in Africa, though, which afforded the writers plenty of ammunition to take aim at American foreign policy over the past few years.

Having been recuperating in the fictional country of Sangala helping Carl care for orphans over the past couple of months, Jack was less than impressed to find himself facing a subpoena requesting his return to the United States to face questioning over his human rights abuses of the past.

Determined not to return to face the music, Jack prepared to move on – but was quickly faced with an even more pressing situation: a military coup led by a would-be dictator who was rounding up children to use as front-line militia. Needless to say, the school for orphans seemed an obvious place for recruitment.

With the clock ticking, Jack and Carl attempted to ensure the safe evacuation of the children along with their fellow Americans… but faced a number of obstacles along the way.

Hanging over this particular storyline was, of course, America’s inaction in Rwanda during the Clinton administration, as well as the emergence of African child armies (as previously dealt with in films like Blood Diamond).

The point-making was far from subtle – a UN adviser was portrayed as a coward for choosing to flee rather than confront the problem (witness Shooting Dogs for a companion piece), while Powers Boothe’s outgoing president was seen to rule out military intervention because of the lack of natural resources deemed worth protecting.

24 has seldom shyed away from moral complexity and, in this case, politicians and foreign policy were firmly in the firing line. It was heavy-handed, yes, and even a little contrived in places… but it made for riveting drama with a very real social bite.

As ever, Kiefer Sutherland emerged with maximum credit as Jack Bauer, a clearly tortured soul who remains as angry and hurt by his country’s betrayal as he is guilt-stricken and haunted by the sacrifices he has been forced to make. When his skills are called upon, however, he can flick a switch to become a ruthless killing machine… and a believably efficient one at that.

The final scenes were truly powerful and evidence of 24 at its best – as Jack once again was forced to put life-saving duty before personal want and hand himself into the unscrupulous authorities in order to save the children in his charge.

Offsetting this drama around the split-screens that have become a trademark of the show were images of the new President’s inauguration speech (promising new hope and greater accountability) juxtaposed against hundreds of screaming Africans as they were abandoned and left for slaughter. Chilling stuff… and all too real for anyone with a knowledge of what happened in Rwanda.

There was the odd niggling criticism, of course. Robert Carlyle, though good and a nice addition to the franchise, was sacrificed a little too cheaply (why do all of those nearest and dearest to Jack have to die?), while Voight seems to be providing a carbon copy of his villain from Enemy Of The State (although, granted, he does it so well).

The interplay with the children was also heavy-handed, with one boy especially at the centre of ALL the emotional contrivances. Far from being sympathetic, he just became annoying.

That said, it was brilliant indeed to have Jack back. And with Day 7 just around the corner (beginning on Sky 1 in January), we really can’t wait to see what new twists, turns and moral complexities the writers of this still top notch show have in store.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs
UK DVD Release: December 1, 2008