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24 Redeems Itself With Redemption Prequel

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24 did not disappoint. During the waning hours of November sweeps, Fox aired its two-hour 24 prequel movie Redemption. We knew the basic premise for months now, that it was set in the beginnings of a military coup in Sangala, Africa, and we knew that in typical parallel fashion an intertwined storyline was unfolding in Washington, D.C. – a new President was about to take office. Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones – Ocean’s Twelve, The West Wing) will be the President du jour for Day Seven.

But what last night’s Redemption also revealed was how devious this connection between Africa and Washington is. President Taylor looks clean, and at first glance so does her husband, First Gentleman Henry Taylor, as well as her son Roger.

However, we see right away that a big, bad American is funding the military actions in Sangala, a Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight – National Treasure, Transformers) is having a friendly phone call with a Colonel Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Hotel Rwanda). Dubaku is a cog in the coup machine, responsible for capturing and training child soldiers. Hodges offers the colonel all sorts of help, and this brings back memories of Graem Bauer, our favorite deceased Bluetooth baddie whose wireless puppeteering of all things and all people made the end of Day Five that more intriguing.

But this is not the only U.S./Sangala connection; we meet a young, jumpy broker named Chris who is reminds us of Giovanni Ribisi’s Seth Davis in the 2000 film, Boiler Room. As Chris ends a placating phone call with a client, he’s summoned to his boss’s office, and is surprised to see a stranger leaving that office; the stranger is Hodges. And Nichols, Chris’s boss, asks him to do something with some shady accounts, and leave no records. Evidently Chris was under the assumption that these accounts involved embezzlement, but he was looking the other way, as he was making some sweet coin on the management of said accounts.

So, the jittery young man calls on his good friend for advice. As it turns out, this good friend is soon-to-be First Son, Roger Taylor (Eric Lively – The Butterfly Effect, The L Word). Roger advises Chris to talk to the FBI, but Chris is hoping for some intervention from the Oval Office. Roger asks for some concrete evidence which Chris agrees to send him via email. And here’s the other connection, Roger’s assigned Secret Service agent is really in cahoots with Hodges. (An aside: one wonders if bad guys actually use that term. “So, Don Corleone, ya wanna form an alliance…I mean, be ‘in cahoots’ with me and my boys?”)

And because of this Agent Vossler’s ties with Hodges, it pretty much cements Chris’ future as being the foundation of a one-episode story arc. Well, one episode for him anyway. All puns intended.

Meanwhile, we see Jack Bauer at a school in Sangala, unloading heavy containers of supplies. He’s been helping his friend Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle – Eragon, Angela’s Ashes) keep the school running and Jack has also been running from his past. A beleaguered U.S. Embassy official has the dubious duty of trying to serve Jack with a subpoena. Remember all the cool things Jack did in Season Six? And Five? And since the beginning of the series? Well, the government seems to take a dim view of such violent methods of extracting intel and capturing bad guys. And the Embassy man, Trammell (an out-of-place Gil Bellows – The Cleaner, Ally McBeal) asks Carl for information on Jack by way of a vague threat to stop the government support of the school, if Carl does not give up Jack.

Jack has seemed to have found a bit of peace here in Africa, helping at the school and making friends with the boys. But he does not want to compromise the already tenuous situation, so he decides to leave. Of course, he does not get very far, as the Dubaku’s men are on their way, having already killed one boy and severely injuring another who tried to run away while the soldiers approached.

Now is when we get to see Jack’s softer side. Not quite leading “Kumbaya” campfire sing-along sessions, but our image of Jack Bauer is typically that of a terse killing machine; the go-to-guy for making things happen in the name of patriotism. He rarely interacts with children, but here he treats them with dignity and compassion. And even when he’s engaged in throwing sticks of dynamite or knifing rebels, his motivation is nearly endearing.

Because outgoing President Daniels ordered the closing and evacuation of the Embassy, there is minimal manpower to aid Carl’s school. The subsequent moments involved Jack’s brief capture by the rebels, where he pretends to give up the location of the boys, but instead he strangles a captor with his legs. He and Carl then begin the transport of the boys to the Embassy.

There are many tense moments while the group alternately hides and runs. They have managed to secure a walkie-talkie from the enemy, so they are doing their best to stay on safe roads, or go off-road altogether. And here is another moment where Jack’s humanity is evident. When Carl steps on a land-mine to save one of the boys, both he and Jack realize that there is no fix for this situation. Of course at first, Jack stubbornly refuses to accept this, mentally scrambling for options. But finally he knows that Carl will die, he can only now ensure that his death will not be meaningless. He needs to keep the boys moving.

And they do keep moving, on the final harrowing leg of the trip. Once inside the city, they are confronted by rebels, men and boys. In a chilling moment, Jack is staring down the barrel of an assault weapon – held by a child. But because it’s Jack, he manages to convince the boy to put down the weapon, and the boy runs off.

When they finally reach the Embassy, Jack pleads with Trammell to let the boys in. Trammell refuses. Jack has all the correct paperwork, but it doesn’t matter. Oh, wait…now Trammell says that the boys need an adult U.S. citizen escort. And he’s ready to waive that requirement if Jack will surrender. What will Jack do?

The scene ends with Jack and the boys safe on a Marine chopper; looking down on a swarm of terrified Sangalan’s who have nowhere to hide.

No, this movie special did not disappoint at all. 24 fans have now been sufficiently teased and appeased; the plot was fascinating, the dialogue was snappy, (“Thank you, Mr. President”, “Why don’t you go hide with the other children!”) and Sean Callery’s musical scoring was outstanding.

January 11, 2009 will bring us back to these scenarios when Day Seven begins, hopefully answering some questions, and as always, raising many more.

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