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'24: Redemption': Is Kiefer Sutherland's show still relevant?
by Christian Blauvelt

Categories: Television

Kiefersutherland24_lIt's been a long 18 months--one that featured a writers' strike, and a jail sentence for Kiefer Sutherland--since the clock last ticked on the critically derided sixth season of 24. But there was no evidence that Fox's hit drama has faded from memory, not from the way the press and public were buzzing at the red-carpet premiere of 24: Redemption at the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square last night.

Still, despite the great turnout to celebrate the TV movie (which airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. EDT on Fox), the question remains: Is 24 relevant anymore? Debuting in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the show -- with its apoplectic mixture of hawkishness and paranoia and its Constitution-be-damned, torture-prone tragic hero Jack Bauer -- reflected back our anxieties about the war on terror and its toll on our civil liberties. But the political landscape has changed dramatically over the last several months, and as we spoke to cast members Sutherland, Jon Voight, and Cherry Jones, along with executive producers Howard Gordon and Jon Cassar (who's also Redemption's director), we wanted to get their takes on the show's prospects heading into the Obama era.

How big an issue is the 18-month break between season 7 and Redemption?
Kiefer Sutherland: Itís been so difficult for us, what with the programming delays due to the strike. Weíve had 16 episodes of season 7 ready to air for 8 months. We apologize to the fans for the delay.

What is the place of 24 in the era of an Obama Presidency?
Howard Gordon: Jack came of age in this post-9/11 era, and he has become a very dark character over the years, so this season, Jack has to ask some very hard questions about how we can live in a world with Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and I think he reaches some interesting answers about those things.

Jon Cassar: Our writers are newshounds and theyíve always been able to write ďwhat-ifĒ situations. And itís really hard to see the relevance of this new season until it airs. In Redemption, weíre dealing with something thatís already happening, the whole issue of child soldiers, and putting a spotlight on that, which weíre very proud to do. But I think youíll be interested to see that season 7 almost does reflect Obama, [even though we didn't know] that Obama would be president when we started shooting 15 months ago. Some of his politics are reflected in the new season. Our writers are pretty amazing at foreseeing the future.

What are the politics of 24ís first female President?
Cherry Jones: To step into that Oval Office as an actor and sit in that chair, it was a very daunting experience. Iíve played a lot of very strong women, but I donít think any real president gets it until they are in that office and behind that desk for the first time. And certainly my one day that you see me as president is a bloody awful day. It is a day that is so dreadful that it is non-partisan. Joel Surnow told me when I was prepping for 24, ďThereís no past on this show, thereís no future. Thereís the moment.Ē I didnít worry about her party politics, I worried about her soul and what she thought was right. In terms of ďwhy did they want a female president?Ē they wrote this show over a year and a half ago, so I think they probably did think the new President was going to be Hillary Clinton. But after two male African-American presidents and three white guys on 24, what else could they do?

What was it like shooting parts of Redemption in South Africa?
Jon Cassar: Kudos to Fox for letting us shoot there. We are a television show, we donít have an unlimited budget, so we were talking about doing it all in California, going out into the desert and making it look like Africa. But eventually they recommended that we actually go [to South Africa], and it was fantastic being there not only because of the geography but because of the people.

But potentially losing the real-time format for a movie would free-up where you can goÖ
Jon Cassar: We started thinking about changing the format for Redemption. But itís still in real time, taking place only in two hours.

Kiefer Sutherland: Travel is complicated for us in the context of the show because itís 24 hours in real time, but itís certainly an option in the feature-film world for us. We certainly talked about doing a season in Europe, a season in London, and of course right now we did the last season in Washington D.C., so weíre starting to warm to the idea.

How would you like the show to end for Jack Bauer?
Howard Gordon: Iíd like to see a happy ending for Jack, but Iím not certain if itís in the cards. The show is a tragedy after all. I think thereís a temptation, since this is a real-time show, to show Jack Bauerís last day. As a writer, it would be a very touching thing to do. My guess, though, is that it would be unbearable. And I donít think Fox would want to consider that, [especially] if weíre going to have a movie franchise! That said, Jackís tempted fate several times in the past, and he will again this year.

Jon Cassar: Itís really tough, I think both Kiefer and I thought at one point that Jack Bauer has to die, that the only realistic thing that could happen is for him to die. That was before people started talking about movies. Now weíre not so ready to kill him. I think weíll be happy just to finish season 8 and then start thinking about movies and the franchise. Iíd really like to see it go into a movie franchise.

Who would Jack Bauer have voted for? Obama or McCain?
Howard Gordon: Iím not certain he would vote, actually. He serves his country in a different way, a non-partisan way. But that said, I think aspects of both Obama and McCain would appeal to him.

Jon Voight: [Laughs.] Iím not going there! I didnít vote for Obama, but we wish the best for him and we want him to be a great President. Iím rooting for him, heís our President.

Jack Bauer or James Bond?
Kiefer Sutherland: [Laughing because a group of nearby fanboys are shouting out ďJack BauerĒ in response to this question.] They say Jack, so Iíll go with that.

So how about it PopWatchers? Are you stoked for Redemption? Will you be back on board for another hellish day in the life of Jack Bauer come January? Or is 24 going to be left off your TiVo this year?

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24: Redemption: :: Comments


Post on Wed Nov 26, 2008 12:00 am by kane

24: Redemption Review
Posted by Michael Weyer on 11.26.2008

With an extended TV movie and some nice extras, Jack Bauer is back in fine form to set up a new day of action.

24: Redemption DVD
24 is one of those shows you donít have to just suspend disbelief. You need to box it up, bind it and put it on the closet shelf while you watch. Yes, the show can be incredibly ridiculous at times (particularly at the mid-point of each season where itís clear the writers are filling in hours until the finale) but thatís part of its charm. What keeps it going isnít just the fact the actors sell it all well, not just the action but the whole ďreal-timeĒ aspect that still remains a draw after all these years.

Even 24 fanatics like me have to admit that season six was the poorest year of the show. It was probably doomed as season 5 had been such a creative high that earned the show its long overdue Emmys for best Drama and best actor Kiefer Sutherland. Day 6 started well with Sutherlandís Jack Bauer taken from 20 months in a Chinese prison and having to learn to be the bad-ass all over again to stop terrorists who had already set off a nuke in L.A. But the season faltered as too much time was spent on making Jackís dad the main bad guy and his former love Audrey driven mad and just didnít click as well.

So for season 7, the producers had planned big shifts. Gone was CTU. Gone was the L.A. setting as Jack would now be in Washington D.C. testifying over his actions to Congress only to be pulled into facing a terrorist group led by long-thought dead friend Tony. But with eight episodes shot, the writerís strike hit and by the time it was over, Fox decided it was easier to just wait a whole year to play the season without interruption. But it has given the producers the opportunity to create a full-scale movie prequel that sets the stage for this new day while also providing a great showcase for its main character.

The Film

It begins in the African nation of Sangala where we see a child brutally inducted into an army by killing another kid. We then get the traditional ďthe following takes place between 3 pm and 5 pmĒ opening (although, as usual, itís not perfect real-time). We soon find Jack Bauer at a small missionary in Sangala. It seems itís been over a year since Day 6 and Jack has been wandering around the world, usually places he served in, searching for some meaning. Heís come to this school run by an old friend of his, Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle). Jackís day is interrupted by Frank Tramell (Gil Bellows), a smarmy State Department official who wants to give Jack the Congressional subpoena heís been ducking for the last year. Benton is worried about Jackís mood as the man seems ready to go on the run again, not wanting to drag his friend into his problems.

Things take a turn when soldiers head into the area, killing two children and dragging off the others to become soldiers in the army of General Juma (Tony Todd), a ruthless warlord whoís about to launch an all-out coup on the nation. Warned by Carl, Jack breaks out his old ass-kicking ways to defend the school and the two of them soon try to lead the children to the American embassy in the main city. Theyíre pursued by the soldiers, particularly Colonel Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), whose brother Jack killed in the battle and naturally wants revenge.

This couldnít come at a more inconvenient time for the U.S. as in Washington, itís only a few hours before the swearing in of the new President, Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones). In his last hours in office, Noah Daniels (the always terrific Powers Boothe), having inherited the Presidency last season, is told of the coup but orders all U.S. personnel to evacuate, a move that angers Taylor. Meanwhile, Taylorís son, Roger (Eric Lively) is approached by a friend (Kris Lemeche) who has some info on shady dealings within his powerful company. It seems the boss, Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight) has been sending money to groups that may be involved in the coup. Roger is doubtful as his friend tries to get more evidence only to find some sinister folks waiting for him.

It takes a while for the story to get going but once it does, itís full throttle action and intrigue as only 24 can deliver. The African setting is a real change, giving the film a great authentic feel that enhances the action. There are really only a couple of major action scenes with Jack on his own battling multiple baddies while leading the children away but theyíre all well done. The intrigue in Washington is good as Voightís mere presence makes Hodges a chilling figure, especially considering how close he appears to be to the Presidency.

Itís not all action as Sutherland gets to show more depth to Jack than usual. You sense his fatigue after all these days filled with the loss of family and friends, how itís piled up and made him doubt his own resolve and beliefs. But when these children heís come to care for are threatened, Jack is all too willing to throw aside his doubts and get back to doing what he does best in order to save the day. It doesnít stop the loss but that drives him on. Heís especially good in the final scene where he finally gets the kids to the embassy but faces a hard choice in order to save them at the cost of the freedom heís been seeking. Sutherland once again shows how underrated he is as an actor, his Emmy notwithstanding, as heís able to tell us more by Jackís expression than with any long speeches, a single look of pain speaking volumes of the manís great agony within.

The supporting cast are good with Carlyle terrific as a man who in so many ways is like Jack, just more burned out. He handles himself well in the action scenes, even managing to rescue Jack in one but really gets his due with a scene in which the two must bid good-bye over the worst possible circumstances. Also good are the various children, especially Siyabulela Ramba as Willie, the young boy who looks up to Jack and his never-ending faith helping to push him along. Bellows is pretty much a one-trick character as the type of guy who'll ignore pleads from a desperate mother because of rules so you can understand why Jack hates bowing down to him at the end.

Itís quite interesting to see the transfer of power as Jones instantly shows how Taylor is a steely woman and makes you believe she could win an election and take over the nation. The scenes with Boothe are excellent as he shows the weariness of Daniels, a man who lusted for the big chair only to find out it was far more difficult than he thought itíd be. Boothe carries the weariness of Daniels, the almost relief heís able to leave office but still proud enough to insist Taylor refer to him as ďMr. PresidentĒ even as sheís ready to take over.

I know that there will be grousing over the politics. Iím sure some see a hidden meaning behind the French United Nations worker who refuses to believe the coup is coming and then insists heís neutral rather than help Jack out (although Jack does say heís just using that as an excuse to save his own ass). The idea of the U.S. willing to dump a long-time ally rather than get involved in a costly far-off battle may ring true with some and others may be annoyed at the ďthis truly happensĒ message the producers seem to line the film with. But the story and its actors help things gel along so well, you donít really get hung up on such things but enjoy the ride.

This story is far from being a simple stand-alone as itís clear it sets up so much of the coming season. It flows by quickly but thatís not really a complaint but shows how well the storyline gels and that the producers are able to achieve more showing than telling. But even on its own, itís a great return of one of the most thrilling shows around, with the new setting livening things up and a deeper turn for Sutherland. Overall, Redemption shows that no matter the time, Jack Bauer is still the guy you want to root for against all odds and makes any day with him worthwhile.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.0

Video: The film is widescreen with a 1.78:1 ratio. The video is quite crisp to enhance the mood of the story. Indeed, itís great to see the vibrant colors of the Africa sequences contrasted with the crisp and dry Washington scenes. The action scenes really come to life here with a terrific picture in the best definition.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.0

Audio: 5.1 Dolby Surround with subtitles in Spanish. The audio is just as clear, catching the various effects, especially in firefights but clear for dialogue too to give the full experience.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.0

Bonus Features: The DVD comes with two discs. The first is the regular broadcast version of the film shown on FOX which runs 87 minutes. The second disc is the real big one with an Extended Version that runs 102 minutes. The additions are mostly small stuff, extensions of battle scenes with a few things a bit too rough for the broadcast version and longer conversations between Taylor and Daniels. Thereís a nice scene between Taylorís husband, Henry (the great Colin Feore) and Peter MacNicolís White House Chief of Staff Tom Lennox. The longest and best addition is a terrific talk between Benton and Jack where Benton reveals the tragedy that made him quit the spy game and his fear Jackís going down the same self-destructive road. Itís a great scene that adds depth to both men and tells you why Benton is willing to fight so much to help his charges out. Thereís also a brief addition to one scene that reveals a supposedly dead character is actually still alive, no doubt to plague Jack in season 7.

The extended version comes with a Audio Commentary by Sutherland, director Jon Cassar and writer/producer Howard Gordon. Itís a nice discussion of the challenges of shooting in Africa. They reveal that the entire African plotline was originally going to be the start of season 7 but the network deemed it too costly so they dropped it only to later realize it was perfect for this film. They actually see the strike delay as an opportunity to set things up with what Jackís been up to and showing how this whole thing was a problem Taylor inherited rather than began. They share some nice tidbits of the shooting such as Cassar being bothered when a scene at the Generalís quarry camp was hindered by fog but when the dailies came, realized it made the scene look much cooler. Thereís a funny bit where the film shows Carly Pope (as Rogerís girlfriend) sliding on stockings while in her underwear and all three men drift off from their talks and then confessing how they made sure the editors kept that angle in. Sutherland seems comfortable discussing how good it felt making this, even getting a shot on how child actors in L.A. seem precocious because of their training but the African kids took to it so easily. While itís repetitive hearing them talk of how stuff will ďmean more when you watch season seven,Ē itís still a great track that adds new light to the film experience.

The Making of Redemption is your standard ďmaking ofĒ documentary with some nice behind the scenes stuff. Cassar explains that they were originally going to do the bulk of the film in L.A. but after scouting in South Africa, they realized there was no way anyplace in the States could stand in for the real thing and talked the network into shooting on location. That led to various complications like putting tracking cameras on the rough and uneven terrain and finding locations for places like the embassy. The biggest challenge was the weather as it was actually quite cold at the time of shooting with rain and hail often popping up to hinder things. ďItís good weather 3, bad weather 5,Ē one man cracks on camera. Thereís a nice bit of Cassar walking around to show exactly where Jack will be moving during his first gun battle with the soldiers, linked to shooting the scene and then the finished film. There are some interesting revelations such as the fact many of the core unit of the showís creators were back in L.A. and D.C. shooting stuff so they had to use locals. That led to surprises such as how a single grip unit could handle most everything rather than the four or five different ones they were used to in the States. We get some good footage of the child actors who really got into things although producers had to keep telling them ďdonít smileĒ while shooting some exciting stuff. Itís also interesting to see how much 24 differs from other series as thereís never any storyboarding since the actors and producers are always finding new ways to shoot stuff while the production is going. Itís a bit annoying you actually get more info on the background of Benton through the doc than in the actual film but itís fascinating to watch how a show that delves in fantasy so much really went out all to make this film as real as it could.

Blood Never Dry: Child Soldiers in Africa: This documentary offers a chilling look at the all-too real epidemic the film touched upon, which is children in Africa being brutally drafted into army groups. Scholars and human rights experts talk of how these kids are brainwashed by brutal means to become killers, even attacking their own families as an induction method. Footage is shown and the sight of ten year olds holding assault rifles and smoking with the looks of hardened soldiers is enough to make your heart break. Even more gripping are the segments where Cherry Jones, Carlos Bernard and Mary Lynn Rajskub read from true testimonials of those child troops. It all ends with the urging to donate to the United Nations and other funds to prevent these horrors and after seeing this, youíll be more than tempted to do so.

Day 6 in 4 minutes is what it says, recapping the last season in only a few minutes. Of course, they leave off virtually anything with Wayne Palmer, Jackís nephew and other stuff that made the entire year drag.

Season 7 Sneak Peek is the first 16 minutes of the first episode of next year showing Jack testifying before Congress before the FBI brings him in to handle a new group of technology thieves led by the still alive Tony. Thereís also the kidnapping of an important computer expert in a car crash and introductions of Annie Wersching as Renee Walker and Jeanne Garofalo as an FBI agent who can actually out-attitude Chloe.

There are also teasers of various films, Season 7 and other Fox shows on DVD.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

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