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24: Redemption Review

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Or Jack Bauer's African Vacation

★★★★★

Devotees of Jack Bauer’s techno-thriller adventures will be familiar with the Jack Sack, a fashionable yet functional man-purse in which the counter-terrorist agent stores his C4 bricks, ammo clips and torture accessories. Excitingly, 24: Redemption sees a new addition to the range: the Jack Backpack. Because, for the first time in the show’s history, Bauer isn’t pounding the streets of Los Angeles, but the equally sun-scorched veldts of Africa.

Since the climax of Season 6, we’re told, Jack has been wandering the Earth like Caine from Kung Fu, searching for inner peace. He’s ended up somehow in the fictional nation of Sangala, where his old British military chum Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle) runs a school for orphans, and where a major international crisis is about to blow up. An evil African general (Candyman himself, Tony Todd) has been stealing children to use as soldiers. He is about to launch a brutal assault on Sangala’s government. He hasn’t, as Voiceover Man might growl, counted on Jack.

Coming off the back of the weakest season to date, Redemption goes some way towards redeeming 24, but not quite as far as we’d hoped. We’re used to the day-long arcs hitting the ground running with a burst of action; why, then, does this 90-minute special kick off with a prologue that’s not even in real-time, then half an hour of slow, slushy drama in which we establish that Jack a) is good with kids, and b) sorry about some nasty stuff he’s done? Get on with it! Then there’s the flute music, thin characters like the slimeball State Department suit trying to deport Jack back to the US, and nonsense dialogue like, “There’s an imminent crisis.” “How imminent?” “Very.” Mm-hmm.

It gets better. Soon there’s some tough, surprisingly gory business involving vultures, a few bits of kickass action, and cutaways to America, where the first ever female President (Cherry Jones) is preparing to take office, while cold-haddock soon-to-be ex-Commander-In-Chief Powers Boothe mutters vague warnings and Jon Voight prepares to execute a dark plot. This Washington-based storyline, clearly there to set up threads for Season 7, is the part that really feels like 24, demonstrating that jolts of icy tension can be created out of nothing more than two people in a room, talking.

Problem is, Jack’s not there, but on the other side of the world, getting nothing much better to do than guide children through a jungle, with the occasional firefight. He’s basically reduced to supporting-character status, meaning that while this functions as an entertaining intro to the new season, it feels more like a novelty webisode than the standalone “event” we were promised.

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