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24 Review

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by Simon Crust Dec 1, 2005

    24 Review
    He's tried to escape it. He's tried to silence it. But for Jack Bauer...instinct never dies

    Ever had one of those days where nothing seems to go right? Where the seemingly simplest tasks take on the proportion of a million piece jigsaw puzzle? Or perhaps had to stay awake for a full twenty four hours to complete a task at hand that should have been oh so simple, but was hampered at every turn at the most unforeseen circumstances? Perhaps most can relate to some degree, but never to Jack Bauer's (Kiefer Sutherland) days. So far he has had four such days, and is due to start a fifth in the New Year. Though, his days are far worse than most could ever hope to cope with. For you see Jack Bauer is, or was, an agent for the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) charged with the security of the United States.

    At 7.00 am on the fourth day, Jack, forcibly retired from the CTU due to certain actions, has a new job, a new girl and a promising outlook. However this is all about to change, as terrorists once again strike at the heart of America with a devious plan that involves kidnapping the Secretary of State, his press agent and daughter, who happens to be Jack's girlfriend, as a rouse to cover the real threat which is to shoot down Air Force One, the Presidents personal Boeing 747, to retrieve the 'football', the codes to Americas nuclear weapons, and launch a nuclear strike at Los Angelis. Since the initial kidnapping involves Jack, he is granted temporary CTU field status and heads back into the fray to once again stand between freedom and the terrorist objective. This short plot description only encompasses the major objectives; it is only a fraction of the many twists and turns that make up the frantic pace of this award winning show.

    24 is the brain child of Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, two prolific TV writers that met and worked together for the short lived crime show the Commish. Their idea was to produce a show that spanned twenty four hours of one single day, in real time, meaning that a minute of screen time equated to a minute of actual time. The result, now known as Day 1, was an instant hit and has become a world phenomenon. The series has evolved from its beginnings to take in world events that take place in a fictitious though comparable reality. During the season breaks, many elements to the show change, this forces the evolution of the characters and it is a testament to the skill of the writers that the audience is able to pick up on the differences with such ease at the start of each incarnation. The show too has evolved somewhat, in this forth day, there is less reliance on the episode cliff-hangers so prevalent in the previous seasons. Instead the series concentrated on setting up and continuing mini story arcs, following the main action. This gives credit to the audience by allowing them to grow with the characters, remembering past situations and events unprecedented in other shows that pander to the three second memory of the MTV generation. Of course that doesn't mean there is any let up in the pace of the show, far from it, in fact this forth day is probably the most frantic of the days so far.

    During the initial broadcast of Day Four, especially here in the UK, there was a lot of criticism levelled at way Muslims were portrayed, saying there were no positive role models. This was not a true representation; one of the main terrorists', his son, Behrooz, was in fact a positive influence, being that he rebelled. Plus there were two Muslims shop owners that stood shoulder to shoulder with Jack to help protect their own. Yet I can understand the criticism, small fry compared to the overwhelming majority of terrorist depicted; but is it not the minority that stand out in our minds, and it was the duty of the show to portray just how ruthless these terrorists are. However, they could have been of any nationality or religion, it is there actions that define them not their faith, and that is what stands out for me. In actuality the brutality of the CTU in obtaining information is by far the more concern to me, with scant regard to the civil liberties of the individual, even when protected by the constitution, still methods are invoked to torture and maim in order to gain information. This is by far and away the most brutal of all the days so far, if anything CTU comes of looking far worse than the terrorist they are fighting.

    The character of Jack Bauer, so ably performed by Kiefer Sutherland, has had to go through some awful decisions and situations; from the death of his wife to going into hiding, and all in the name of the job. My advice would be to get another job, but he tried that during this season and look where that ended up. It seems, though, that Jack can do no wrong, he is the strict line of justice that stands for the American people, unwavering in that pursuit, even if it costs him everything. In the name of his job he commits the most awful atrocities and yet he is still a character we all route for. Not as bad as the anti-hero, but certainly not a clear cut all American boy either. He is shadowed by a cast that all command our respect, each character has a definite agenda and without exception are believable in their roles; be it Chloe and her devotion to Jack, Edgar and his complexities, Tony and his attitude, Michelle and her faults and all the other members. Spending a day with these folks, the writers have the time to really flesh out the motivations and backgrounds of all the characters. So when tensions are raised we start to see exactly how they all tick, how they all interact and that is why this show is such a success.

    Of course it's not all peachy; the show has become a victim of its own success. So revolutionary was Day One with its many twists and turns; especially that last revelation, you now find yourself trying to look for the most unlikely person to be the protagonist. Thankfully the show has recognised this and with day four the terrorist are known for what they are, and the moles take a far less prominent role. So with a 'new' format and all new and bigger threat, Day Four is the best season yet. The series does lend itself to being watch episodically, rather than in one lump as I had to view it. It is so frantic that there is little time to rest and I actually felt exhausted watching it. A slightly longer time frame lends credence to the many twists and turns. I don't think I could watch all the episodes in a day, let alone live it, as Jack and his cohorts have too.