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24: Live Another Day
As far as realism on television is concerned, 24 stands somewhere between Adventure Time and Game of Thrones. Its depiction of a crack team of CIA agents, with indestructible bad guy killing machine Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) as their lead, who neutralize evil terrorists with surgical precision is all the more laughable these days considering that the real CIA recently let some random yahoo with weapons give himself an unauthorized tour of the White House.
It's not that this guy was some kind of a genius when it came to covert infiltration. The secret service merely forgot to lock the front door of the freaking White House. Add to that another revelation of a recent incident where they left the POTUS alone in an elevator with another random dude with a gun, it's shocking how they can manage to put pants on in the morning, let alone defend the "free world". A more realistic approach for depicting the current state of the CIA would be a TV show starring Larry The Cable Guy, not Kiefer Sutherland.
24 shows a fantasy world where well-groomed and conveniently attractive counter-terrorist specialists all operate out of spiffy headquarters that look like an Apple Store went emo, where all our leaders always make selfless decisions for the good of their people instead of sucking up to the most powerful lobbies in order to get re-elected, and every foreign terrorist of color has a personal beef against America without the involvement of a rival country's government so that the viewer can feast on 50% less xenophobia with a side of opportune political correctness.
However, at its best, 24 can be one hell of an entertaining show. During the first couple of seasons, it had me hooked via the clever real-time gimmick, where each episode takes place during an hour and a season covers a 24-hour day, hence the title. Although far from a realistic character, Jack Bauer's undeniable badassery in kicking terrorist ass while not even bothering to take names turned the show into a stylish, nail-biting thriller with half a brain.
During the last couple of seasons, 24 ran out of steam as it tried to cram in too many unbelievable coincidences and conflicts inside a season that's supposed to depict a single day. Terrorist plots that used to take a season to foil were discarded in a couple of episodes in order to make room for more and more bad guys who all picked that particular day to start trouble for some reason. The official run of 24 ended unceremoniously in 2010 after eight seasons.
Perhaps wanting to see if they can extract some extra drops of revenue from their once-cash cow, Fox agreed to bring 24 back as a one-time deal and titled this unholy mini-series/reunion hybrid Live Another Day.
Taking place in London four years after the events of the last season, Jack Bauer's triumphant return to making all terrorists dead as quickly yet violently as possible is split into twelve episodes instead of the usual twenty-four. Yes, each episode still depicts an hour in supposed real time. Of course the go-to joke in this situation would be "Why didn't they call it 12 then?" Actually, they do find a way to round the season out to twenty-four hours with an idea that's so obvious and lazy, it must have taken less than five minutes of brainstorming in the writers' room.
After the events of the last season, Jack Bauer had been in hiding for four years. All of a sudden, he resurfaces in London on a day when the POTUS (William Devane) is there to convince the British government to allow the US to expand their drone program in Europe. Bauer is captured by the London branch of the Counter Terorism Unit, which looks suspiciously like the exact same set as the LA branch. His plan, as usual, is to stop an assassination attempt on the president.
From the first episode on, the writers do their damnedest to flip Jack from a fugitive wanted for murder and treason into the terrorist torturing and killing machine he's known for, with full support of the government and the CTU. Hell, they even manage to find a way to shoehorn Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), the genius hacker who acts as Jack's eyes and ears and a character just as synonymous with the show, into the mix.
For the most part, Live Another Day represents a return to form for 24. It's not as pulse-pounding and well-paced as the earlier seasons, but at least manages to hold our attention the way the middle seasons did. Cutting the runtime of the season in half allows the writers to focus on the main conflict while being able to mostly ignore the many sub-plots that used to bring the tension of the show down.
Exploiting the topical issue of drones and how the system that controls them could end up in the hands of the "bad guys", as well as containing one of the most memorable antagonists in the show's history (Michelle Fairley, Catelyn Stark from Game of Thrones) gives this reiteration some extra points. It also showcases perhaps the most exciting action sequence the show has ever executed, as Jack drives away from a drone armed with missiles. I know, a car outrunning a drone sounds ridiculous, but this is 24.
Unfortunately, the season takes a dive after the eighth episode:
(SPOILERS BELOW. SKIP TO A/V REVIEW.)
The problems begin around the 9th episode mark when the show falls victim to the same mistake perpetrated by the last couple of seasons of its official run, which is killing off the chief antagonist and resolving the main conflict too early. From this point on, the writers scramble to keep the action going by introducing one of Bauer's old adversaries, who once again picked the same day as the terrorist attacks to present himself, into the plot so that the last four hours can be filled.
Once the twelve hours are finished, the show lazily jumps another twelve hours in order to somehow fill all 24 hours and get a free Subway sandwich. I told you it was lazy.
The 1080p presentation of 24: Live Another Day is crisp without any noticeable video noise. Even though this is more than likely a transfer loyal to the source, I can't help but find the digital photography too clean and smooth. The earlier seasons, shot on film, had a grainier, grittier look. A lot of Live Another Day makes its digital roots really obvious. Aside from that complaint, the visual representation of the show works fine on Blu-Ray.
Don't be fooled by the fact that 24 is a network show and therefore probably doesn't include a decent surround presentation. After all, we're talking about an action-packed show that's known for its memorable shootouts and chase scenes. The DTS-HD 5.1 surround track that's included on the three discs won't give your surround system a workout and is not demo-worthy, but it has enough presence and power to impress any fan of exciting sound mix and design. One minor complaint could be that I don't remember the loud ticking of the clock between each commercial break to be as loud as it was here. Be prepared to hastily adjust the volume control every ten minutes or so, especially if you're watching at night.
Solitary: A quite pointless (Especially considering the unlikelihood of the show's return) short film giving the audience the fate of one of 24's most famous characters.
Worlds Collide: The cast and crew talk about how the current season was inspired by recent real life events in this six-minute featurette.
Deleted and Extended Scenes: Thirteen minutes of scenes that don't really add much to the story. Getting rid of them was the right choice.
Destination London: A three-minute featurette about shooting on location in London.
Green Production: A five-minute featurette about how this season was produced in an environmentally conscious fashion.
All in all, the first eight hours are as jam-packed with action, intrigue and twists that fans would expect from 24, only to take a dive at the last minute. Perhaps for the next season, if there is one and considering the less-than-stellar ratings of Live Another Day, there probably won't be, they'll consider an eight-episode run.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com
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