Set 18 months where Season 6 of '24' left off, former government agent Jack Bauer is in a self-imposed exile in the fictitious African country of Sangala where he hopes to escape from a U.S. investigation of him for his past methods, and to run from his past. Bauer works at a mission school for orphaned children run by his friend Carl Benton. The country is at the mercy of a rogue warlord general named Juma who is plotting a coup to overthrow the government and his right-hand man Colonel Dubaku, is abducting orphan boys and forcibly recruiting them into Juma's army. Bauer and Benton must work together to save the dozen or so boys and try to get them out of the country before Juma takes over. Meanwhile in Washington D.C., it is Inauguration Day where the outgoing President Noah Daniels is handing over the presidency to the first female president Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones). Hearing about the coup, Daniels wants to evacuate the country before it falls to the rogue general, while ... Written by
It has been some time since we last saw Jack Bauer. The writer's strike saw him run out of tough things to say and a generally negative response to a weak season 6 has seen him leave America and travel the world. We join him in a non-existent African country where he is spending time with former brother in arms Carl, protecting children at the orphanage he has set up. It is not all helping and healing though as his past pursues him in the form of a subpoena from the US Government to face questioning on charges of prisoner abuse (damn these liberals). However, just as Jack packs up to leave the country and move on again, a coup begins and rebels come to snatch up the children to be soldiers. Meanwhile in the existing country of USA , the first female President is being sworn in while, in the background, figures are covertly supporting the coup for their own reasons.
Everyone has been saying how long a wait it has been since day 6 finished, using words like "impatiently" etc but for me (as a viewer since hour 1) I felt that the break was a good thing. Day 6 was such a lacklustre season and played like an exaggerated pastiche of itself that the break does feel like an opportunity to send the makers away to sit in the corner and think about what they have done - and don't come back till you're sorry! With this bridging special I did worry that we would continue the trend of Jack being the hub of everything in the world, perhaps with the coup either being about him or with him preventing the entire thing - after all, the Bauer family are seemingly to blame for all evil deeds in the world. Fortunately the special harks back to the approach of season 1 and 2 which has dark deeds at a higher level and Jack thrown into them for reasons out of his hands, rather than being the creator and driver of all things.
This takes the form of a simpler plot where Jack is looking after the fleeing children in their short run to safety. It starts slow though, with a good thirty minutes of establishing material and scene setting before any urgency kicks in. After this we have the usual 24 material of action sequences, heroic/sacrificial deaths, neo-conservative subtexts (although that suggests they are subtle, which they are not), political going-ons and shadowy men doing hits on behalf of powerful men. All these are in place and, with the stripped down plot and Bauer influence, it does feel a lot more like the 24 I like. This is not to say it is perfect of course, because 24 never was - even when really good there was always plenty to make fun of it for. Here we have less that produced laughter but we still get handed a terribly clumsy attack on the UN in the form of a weirdly "European" character who is cowardly
clinging to "talking" like a weak-wristed liberal. Not only was this
poor writing but it is a bit rich when you consider the real life conflicts in Africa and the level of US intervention in them, however even ignoring that it was a typically conservative piece of politics from 24 that must be a bit like a wet dream to Fox viewers!
Talking of real-life for a moment, I did find the setting and scenario of this special to be a little off-putting. The pace and "24-isms" of the film helped me keep my head in the world of fiction but there is no doubt that the world of child soldiers and African coups is a little too real to be purely entertainment and not have an edge of sorrow to it. The film mostly ignores the latter but it does manage to produce the former despite this, again by focusing on what the series does and just doing it. The cast are reasonable enough, all fitting into the classic clichés of the show. Sutherland is gruff and tough as ever and has a bit of chemistry with Carlyle, who doesn't have a lot to work with here other than hanging out with Sutherland for a bit. Bellows, Jones, Gunton, Feore and Voight all represent new faces in the usual characters. They do offer some hope though if Day 7 can keep the political mystery that this film had.
24: Redemption isn't a significant change to the series and those that do not like the series will not like this. However for those who found Day 6 to be a massive disappointment then it does represent a sort of redemption as it appears to be taking a slight step back towards what hooked us originally. This means the usual weaknesses as much as the strengths but it is still a quite entertaining film for 24 fans.
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