It has to be admitted up front that in 2001 when 24 and Jack Bauer hit television screens with all the real-time power of a runaway freight train, getting excited about the show was easy, now 13 years later it’s a case of falling in love again with Bauer, the format and Kiefer Sutherland.
Perhaps the new love affair with Sutherland has a little something to do with his portrayal of a Roman bully in the 2014 film Pompeii. With a villainous hissing delivery, complete with the obligatory English accent (as per the Jaguar commercials on TV) the 47 year-old actor pulled off being a nasty bit of work, effortlessly. Or it could be because the show took a break after 2010.
So what does this have to do with Sutherland’s latest incarnation as Jack Bauer, super agent and master badass who seems to be about five steps ahead of everyone? Admittedly, not a lot except that both are played by this brilliant actor who now sounds a lot like the villain in Pompeii when he speaks. Sans Etonian accent of course, but there is a slightly more pronounced hiss to his words than before.
Go back to season one of 24 and just listen to the opening introductory sequence where Sutherland tells the audience that the events “occur in real time,” and that hiss is not so obvious. Still, sibilants aside Jack Bauer in 2001 sounds the same as he does in 2014, albeit older, despite the Pompeii hissing. This image alone, an older, wiser Jack, makes it easy to fall in love with 24 all over again.
In 24: Live Another Day, which sounds quite a lot like a Bond film without Daniel Craig, Bauer is back and this time it’s to help an old friend, or at least someone he feels indebted to, the U.S. president.
The old fellow has a history with Jack, and he is suffering from increasing symptoms of dementia. There is a subplot dealing with the presidential daughter and her husband’s paranoia about Bauer. More importantly than this little Peyton Place scenario, a very nasty female terrorist is busily hijacking missile-carrying drones to bomb London and kill President Heller while he’s there.
The usual format applies. Each episode covers an hour of “real time” action. Although this is really not true as the airing time of the “hour-long” program is in reality only around 45 minutes. Regardless of this little “cheat” each episode ends on a cliffhanger that would make the old Saturday morning serials proud.
All this is to point out that the show’s formula, despite getting a bit dry in the middle there, still works to keep the viewer watching. Granted some bits in the show must be viewed with clenched teeth and eyes slightly averted while waiting to see if a major character is going to be killed horribly but that is part of its charm.
In Episode 6, when Jack asks for, and gets, “disgraced” C.I.A. agent Kate Morgan for a secret mission to stop the nasty black widow terrorist, seconds into their planned mission, things go wrong. Tension is built up while Bauer stalls for time and all the while Agent Morgan looks pretty likely to have a drill poked through her skull.
Meanwhile, the British government, who are a bit concerned with the news that President Heller is not playing with a full deck, jump right in the middle of the operation jeopardising everything. While the viewers shake their heads in frustration, and click their tongues muttering, “Yup, that’s exactly how it would go all right,” the cliffhanger ending of this week’s episode is right around the corner.
There was a splendid moment where attempting to second-guess who the CIA plant was, resulted in surprise and, it must be said, disappointment. Apart from that, there is a great chase scene that is cut short by a double decker bus. Incredibly the power of the show is such that the audience will actually feel upset with this character’s apparent demise.
By the time the episode ends, 24 has the viewer falling in love again with the whole premise, and of course Jack Bauer. Like a Weeble, Jack may wobble, but “he don’t fall down.” Binge watching the first five episodes does not take long for those who are behind, via Hulu, and it is well worth it. Episode six can be seen after midnight on Hulu and the next day on Fox websites. Teeth clenching whilst viewing is not mandatory.
By Michael Smith