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DVD Review: 24 – Redemption

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When last we saw Jack Bauer at the end of Day Six, some eighteen months ago, he was psychologically battered and bruised, sitting at ocean’s edge, contemplating his next move. Saving the world from certain annihilation, one day at a time, is a thankless job, and by the end of Day Six, Bauer was getting no respect. He was, however, in deep ka-ka because some of his more (ahem) aggressive methods in making the world safe for truth, justice, and apple pie. Faced with the possibility of Federal indictment, not to mention the insurmountable forces of the Writers’ Strike, Bauer did what any action hero would do: he cut his losses, got the hell out of L.A. and toured the world.

We catch up with Bauer in 24 – Redemption, finding him doing missionary work in the fictional African country of Sangala, which is a sort of Uganda, Somalia, and a number of other hot spots rolled into one. Oddly enough, the man who runs the school for troubled boys is an old cohort of Bauer, Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle, The Full Monty), a redeemed man with a never fully disclosed past.

This is 24, however abbreviated as it may be—the events take place between 3 PM and 5PM (Is that Sangala time or Washington D.C. time?) and events quickly go south. Jack is served with a subpoena to testify before Congress about the more unsavory operations of CTU and his direct involvement in torture of suspects. Before he can bail to parts unknown, however, a local warlord attacks the school where Bauer is working, in an attempt to “recruit” new child soldiers in his rebellion against the government there.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, newly-elected president Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) is about to be sworn into office, amidst all orts of nefarious shady doings, most of which appear to be instigated by Day Seven’s high villain, Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight), a corporate slimeball who apparently has some dealings with the rebels in Sangala.

24 – Redemption borrows heavily from other sources, particularly the film Blood Diamond, and it doesn’t stray far from the 24 formula. Bauer is called into action, however reluctantly, and by my count, kills 14 rebels in the first shootout, which lasts about 90 seconds. Surprisingly, the story holds together, more because of Carlyle’s character than Sutherland’s.

What really makes this two-disc edition worth owning are the special features. Besides the obligatory audio commentary that accompanies the extended edition of the feature, this set includes featurettes not usually seen in what is essentially a promo for an upcoming season. Of course, there’s fluff in the featurettes. “24: Season Six in Four Minutes” succinctly highlights the story points of that flailing season without getting into all the plot holes that make us wonder why we sat through that semi-season. “The Exclusive First Look at Season 7,” consisting of the first 17 minutes of the premiere episode airing in January opens up a whole new can of intrigue and assorted worms that remind us why we watch week after week, ignoring all 24’s time warp improbabilities.

“The Making of 24 – Redemption” is a nice little piece, and illustrates the differences between filming in Los Angeles and South Africa. Even lighting presents a new set of challenges because of the country’s proximity to the South Pole. It’s interesting to note, too, how the South African crews imparted time-saving techniques to the American crews. It’s rare to see these kind of tidbits in a TV feature DVD, and it leaves even the most casual viewer with an appreciation of how film comes to be.

By far, the best of the special features is the mini-documentary “Blood Never Dry.” The child soldiers portrayed in 24 – Redemption are a reflection of very real presence in our world, and this documentary tells the tragic story of the “child soldiers.” These are children, often as young as eight or ten, snatched from their homes, often seeing their families killed before their eyes, indoctrinated to be killers through brainwashing and forced drug addiction. It’s an insidious, and overlooked, disaster confronting the world. More information can be found at unicef.org and child-soldiers.org.

The DVD also offers the broadcast version of the movie (87 minutes) and the extended version (102 minutes), although those but the most dedicated 24 fans will notice any difference in the two versions.

24 – Redemption is by no means a work of art. Many times, it seems like a lukewarm, made for TV version of Blood Diamond. And you can’t escape the feeling that it’s a promo made to revive interest in as series that was running the bases in Day Six. That being said, 24 – Redemption is a nice segue between Day Six and the upcoming Day Seven. Considering that Kiefer Sutherland’s contract runs out in 2009, and considering that this, after all, Day Seven, it might be time to retire Jack Bauer with dignity.

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