Worth A Look: 32.14%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 3.57%
1 review, 22 user ratings
|24: Season One
As our good friend Oz has pointed out, while the movies in our local metroplexes are getting less and less adventurous, TV producers are going the other way, and it's leading to many great works--like this one, an incredibly adrenaline-drenched serial about a federal agent trying to stop an assassination."Right now, terrorists are plotting to assassinate a presidential candidate, my teenage daughter is missing, and people that I work with may be involved in both. I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer. Today is going to be the longest day of my life."
"The Perils of Pauline starring John McCain, mixed with the X-Files"
Due to the nature of "24," to thoroughly discuss it, it will be necessary to give spoilers about it. Therefore, this review will be in two parts; the first of which can be read without giving anything significant away, the second which will have some major spoilers.
I'm going to this trouble because when I started watching the DVD's of the first season last weekend, I got curious about one of the cast members, and looked her up on the IMDB. Imagine my surprise when I ran into major spoilers on the very first page of its listing.
SECTION ONE: ONLY TEENY-TINY SPOILERS
"You're a good liar. But I've seen better."
The first thing "24" has to recommend it, and its strongest feature, is its plotting. The gimmick of the show is that it is taking place in real time, sequentially, as a federal agent, Jack Bauer, played by Keifer Sutherland, tries desperately to thwart a plot to assassinate a black presidential candidate, all of it taking place on the day of the California presidential primary.
The makers of "24," Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow, have resurrected a type of fiction that used to be very common--the serial thriller. To keep you watching, they have to keep things in flux, and keep surprising you. When I started watching the series, I didn't think anyone could pull that off.
Audiences have gotten so sophisticated, I figured we would see what's coming a mile off. Well, these guys hit that ball completely out of the park. Occasionally I found myself a moment ahead of them, but never more than that, and not often. After watching the whole thing, in retrospect, some of the plot-twists struck me as illogical, of the but-if-that's-so-why-did-they-do-that variety, but at the time, I went with it.
As an example of their ability to surprise, consider this, from the very first episode: CTU (the mythical agency Sutherland works for) has credible intelligence about an assassination attempt, and the assassin is coming from Europe. We cut to an airliner in flight, and immediately suspect a guy in first class.
He's tall, lean, high-cheekboned, dressed fashionably all in black, and has a German accent. Looks like a terrorist to me! But they've faked you out--he's not the terrorist, but a world-renowned German photographer, who's coming to LA to photograph the presidential candidate. They've used the old Euroterrorist cliche, which we've seen in hundreds of movies from "Die Hard" down to "Sum of All Fears," to throw us off. He is killed before the end of the first episode, and his press pass stolen.
Of course, since they've got his press pass, the bad guys do eventually substitute a look-alike for the photographer--and then you are getting the cliche of a Euroterrorist assassin--but in a new way, so you go with it.
You also have a sense, right from the start, that things are going to get worse. We learn right at the start that our hero has just recently reconciled with his wife after a seperation that she requested--because he had been too involved in his work. And Bauer is also told, by his superior, that they have intelligence that someone in their agency may be working for the other side.
You worry you may have wandered into an X-Files, "Trust No One," ConspiracyLand territory. However, in this, as in all else, "24" delights in surprising you.
If you watch the whole series at a few sittings, as I did, the one complaint you might have about it is that it gets to be a bit much, that you get so many reversals and changes of fortune your brain goes into overload, and you might stop believing it for that reason. It probably worked better if seen one episode a week, as it was originally shown.
However, I rented just one of the six DVD's of the Season One box set, firmly intending to only watch one disc a week. I went back the next day and rented the other five, and spent the weekend watching all of it, completely hooked. This is addictive story-telling.
Of the rest of what I can say without giving anything away, the acting is almost uniformly excellent (there's one major exception which will discussed below), with standout work from Keifer Sutherland. He deserved the Golden Globe award he won, *and* the Emmy he didn't. The entire series rests on his actions and reactions to everything that's happening, and he rises to challenge magnificently.
Obviously, this is only scratching the surface of the show, but since part of the point of "24" is its surprises, it can't really be discussed without them.
SECTION TWO: MAJOR SPOILERS
IF YOU WANT TO WATCH IT COLD, STOP READING NOW!
SERIOUSLY, I'M GOING TO GIVE A LOT AWAY!
LAST CHANCE! ALL ASHORE WHO'S GOING ASHORE!
"You mind telling me what's going on around here tonight?"
"What's going on? You mean besides a 747 falling out of the sky and a threat on a presidential candidate's life?"
"Yeah, besides that."
As the show proceeds, a thread emerges concerning the two central characters of the agent, Jack Bauer, and the presidential candidate, David Palmer (played by Dennis Haysbert). Both of these men believe in doing the right thing, without ever compromising integrity. Both of them, over the course of the day, are going to be thrust into situations where they may have to. And the crises, for both of them, comes from their family lives.
Jack is meant to be a pawn in the terrorist plot, and his wife and daughter are kidnapped by the bad guys to pressure him to do what they want. Palmer discovers, to his horror, that he may be married to Lady MacBeth. Unfortunately, "24" doesn't do much with this theme, save show how difficult it can be to do the right thing. It's emphasis is in building a great suspense thriller, and they do that brilliantly.
"Have you noticed, wherever you go there's a body count?"
Another aspect of "24" I should mention is that it is incredibly bloodthirsty. I mentioned the German photographer who's killed. What I didn't say was that he was killed by having his plane blown up, taking hundreds of innocent people with him.
One of the few cliches that the writers of "24" do use (and, perhaps, over-use) is the old Villains With No Regard For Human Life. We also get the Casual Killing of Subordinates Who Fucked Up--and not once, but several times. Makes you wonder how there can be any bad guys left, they're always so anxious to kill each other off.
I wrote of the overload of plot-twists if you watch "24" in one go. This hit me about halfway through. It may be the longest day of Jack Bauer's life, but it's the worst day for his wife, Teri.
Teri and her daughter get kidnapped, taken out to be shot by her kidnappers but saved at the last moment, she gets raped by one of the kidnappers who figures she's going to die anyway, she gets rescued, and she also finds out in the medical exam that she's pregnant. Well, at that point, when the terrorists try to kidnap her and her daughter again, and all their guards are killed, and they just barely manage to get away, but then she sees her daughter killed, her eyes roll up in her head, she falls to ground unconscious, and she wakes up--with amnesia. For some people, this was a jump-the-shark moment in the series. Part of me admired their sheer balls for going fullbore for such a hoary old cliche, but part of me was yelling, "You gotta be kidding!"
The actress who plays Teri Bauer, Lesley Hope, did a superb job not just selling the moment, but building up to it so that you could believe it. Over the course of that long night's journey into day, Teri Bauer goes from resolute to terrified to brittle just the way you think someone who's basically strong but is being beaten up by life would. As you can see from this, the amount of incident in this single day does reach a point where it strains credulity. A lot.
The only thing I thought was really bad about "24" was that when you finally get to the big bad guy, you get the infallible touchstone of cheeziness--he's played by Dennis Hopper. Hopper, like Al Pacino, is one of those actors who should not be encouraged to over-act, and he was, here. His Serbian terrorist accent is firmly from the Count Chocula school of Eastern European accents.I loved the ride, even if it doesn't really end up going anywhere, or amounting to much. For the time you're watching it, though, it's a superior work of suspense from some people to watch.
link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6409&reviewer=301
originally posted: 11/29/02 08:35:14