Jack, in the box

Film
3 out of 5 stars
Jack Bauer has another one of those days.
Jack Bauer has another one of those days.

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

At first glance, the era of Jack Bauer--style politics appears to be over, both here in the real world and in the action series 24, which returns to television this Sunday after a year-and-a-half (writers’ strike--induced) hiatus. As the real U.S. prepares to put an end to eight years of cowboy diplomacy, 24 opens with a senator bureaucrat grilling Bauer during hearings on governmental abuses of power. Critics may question its allegedly positive portrayal of torture, but in its own two-fisted way, 24 has something to offer both sides of the political spectrum. For the right, it’s proof positive that decisiveness, action and a willingness to bend the rules are all it takes to handle the global threat of 21st-century terrorism. For the left, it’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked American unilateralism (or perhaps I’m reading too much into the show’s power-hungry vice president).

The buzz on season seven is that the creators have brought some fresh ideas into the mix after last season’s DOA plotlines. While the first hour of 24’s two-night, four-hour premiere has plenty of chiseled-jaw dialogue, car chases, and “holy shit!” moments, some of it is a little shopworn. Is there a mole in the agency tasked with investigating the terrorist threat? Yes. Does the conspiracy reach the highest levels of government? Yes. Hell, even the main plot—a group of terrorists steal a mother-box device that can be used to control every conceivable communications system in the country—is lifted from Sneakers (or Die Hard 4; take your pick).

Once again, Bauer’s brought in from the cold to handle the bad guys who are seemingly led by his back-from-the-dead CTU colleague Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard). The usual technical mumbo-jumbo is used to explain it all away, leaving Bauer adrift in competing loyalties, working alongside friends and colleagues he may or may not be able to trust and wondering just how far he’s willing to take his own situational ethics. Following that tension and dropping some of the political intrigue would be just the kind of change 24 needs this year.

24 premieres Sun 11 on Fox.

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