As Season 6 of the popular, critically acclaimed 24 drew to a close, most die-hard fans (yours truly included) had almost given up all hope. After five years of strong storytelling---albeit with a few bumps along the way, of course---the series finally seemed to be running out of steam. Luckily, a break was in order: with the advent of the 2007-08 Writer's Guild strike, 24 had no choice but to suspend production, while star Kiefer Sutherland utilized part of his free time to serve 48 days in prison for a DUI charge. As the strike finally drew to a close, the creative team was already hard at work on a follow-up; originally planned as a series of webisodes to build anticipation for Season 7, the project's format changed to a feature-length episode that would bridge the gap.
Dubbed 24: Redemption, this adventure follows Jack Bauer (Sutherland) through the fictional African nation of Sangala. He's had trouble avoiding the "invitations" to return home---i.e., a subpoena to stand before the Senate---but Jack continues to bide his time by helping an old friend, Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle), with missionary work. Unfortunately, trouble always follows Bauer: two young boys from the local school turn up missing after they're ambushed by militia recruits while playing soccer. That's not the real problem, however: though the boys' well-being is certainly a priority, the militia is looking for more recruits, so it's up to Jack and company to get the rest of the young locals to safety. Back on U.S. soil, President-elect Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) is due for inauguration, but the situation in Africa has led to a possible conspiracy within the government, most notably at the hands of Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight).
By and large, this double-length episode should please fans who thought 24 lost its footing in recent years. Though it's much too early to tell if the series will return to its former glory, Redemption offers strong hints that things will be back on track. Chock full of action, suspense and requisite amounts of drama, this one-shot is worthy enough of its brazen title. This may not be an adventure you return to often (such is the case with cliffhanger-driven stories), but Redemption is gripping and enjoyable enough the first time through.
Released on DVD roughly a week after the original broadcast premiere, 24: Redemption gets a decent enough treatment for a stand-alone special. Included on this two-disc set are the broadcast version and an "Extended Creator's Cut", which adds roughly 15 minutes of new and extended scenes; it's nothing major, but the character moments do help Redemption feel like a more full-fledged feature. Also included on this release (aside from a typically strong technical presentation, of course) is a small but appropriate collection of bonus features, all of which probably won't be included on the eventual Season 7 boxed set. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
As with past seasons, 24: Redemption has been presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and looks fantastic. This anamorphic transfer preserves the series' stylized but natural color palette, while only the darkest of scenes tend to be a bit on the murky side. Digital problems (such as edge enhancement and pixellation) aren't an issue at all, thankfully enough. Overall, this final release boasts a much stronger visual presentation than the early screener that was originally issued.
The audio is presented in an energetic Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix (also available in Spanish 2.0 Surround), boasting immersive action sequences and subtle atmospheric touches during quieter moments. Dialogue sounds clean and clear, but the strong dynamic range ensures that explosions and gunfire also pack quite a punch. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are provided during the main feature...but none of the bonus materials, unfortunately.
A general Making-Of Featurette (21:55, below left) is next, which closely resembles those included with past season releases. There's a bit of overlap between this and the audio commentary, but this is still worth a once-over. Other basic extras include a brief Season 6 Recap (4:48)---which is helpful for those who didn't bother finishing last year's lackluster outing---and a lengthy Season 7 Preview (17:02) that keeps the momentum rolling nicely. Only the latter might be worth returning to, especially as anticipation for the upcoming season premiere grows stronger.
Last but not least is "Child Soldiers in Africa" (15:04, below right), a real-life piece about young soldiers from the war-torn continent. Several key members of the cast and crew, as well a few other notables, are on hand to explain the situation in raw detail. It's an interesting and good-intentioned extra that could've easily come across as distasteful or maudlin...but in this case, it fits in quite well. All bonus features are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen when applicable, though captions and subtitles are not provided.
As its title implies, 24: Redemption offers a marked improvement over last season's lackluster story. This feature-length adventure bridges the gap between Seasons 6 and 7, so fans who didn't catch this during its original broadcast will certainly want to give this a look. The "Extended Creator's Cut" isn't worth the price of admission alone, but the addition of the broadcast version---not to mention a handful of decent bonus features, of course---makes 24: Redemption a solid one-shot release that fans will enjoy. As expected, the technical presentation is up to the series' typically high standards, so this DVD's mild A/V upgrade also sweetens the pot. All things considered, those willing to give the Bauer-powered franchise a second chance should walk away satisfied. Firmly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.