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24: Redemption

Shot partly on location in South Africa, Fox's "24" movie gives Jack Bauer a new continent across which to righteously kick ass, as well as get his own chops busted in creative (read: tortured) ways.

Jack Bauer - Kiefer Sutherland Carl Benton - Robert Carlyle Frank Tramell - Gil Bellows Jonas Hodges - Jon Voight President Allison Taylor - Cherry Jones Henry Taylor - Colm Feore

Shot partly on location in South Africa, Fox’s “24” movie gives Jack Bauer a new continent across which to righteously kick ass, as well as get his own chops busted in creative (read: tortured) ways. “Redemption” not only teases the coming season’s new exotic threat but trots out the latest commander-in-chief, played by Cherry Jones. Cast like a feature, the project delivers two entertaining real-time hours, though that’s no assurance that Bauer’s seventh very long day (talk about a worst week) will avoid the program’s recent pattern of starting like gangbusters and limping toward the dawn.

In that regard, the writers strike came at a relatively propitious time — helping deaden the memory of the sixth chapter, which essentially came to a grinding halt after 18 hours or so, changed course, then nearly collapsed into Shakespearean silliness. It was a surprising if perhaps inevitable turn for a series built on improbable comebacks, following as it did an Emmy-winning year.

This prequel to “Day Seven” benefits not only from the change of venue but also from the luxury of incorporating so many first-rate actors, including Robert Carlyle as an old pal with whom former Counter-Terrorism Unit agent Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) has taken refuge, helping out a school for kids in war-torn Africa. Of course, anywhere Bauer lands is due for bad news, and a brutal military coup breaks out — not only imperiling Jack and his charges but creating an international crisis just as President-elect Taylor (Jones) is preparing to be sworn in.

More nefarious doings are afoot, and Jack — faced with a Senate subpoena back home — will, as usual, confront tough moral choices, continuing to suffer the torments of the damned to keep others safe. It’s the show’s central motif — how far U.S. values can be bent in the name of freedom and security — and one that has rightly made it a political lightning rod/Rorschach test, with the seriousness of reactions to Jack’s “Ends justifies the means” mindset largely dictated by one’s ideological leanings.

That’s a lot of weight to drag around, and “24” fares best when the show wriggles out from under it — playing like a thriller, as the movie does, with Sutherland barking lines like “Put down the weapon!” Carlyle also delivers a topnotch performance, as does a teeth-gritting Powers Boothe in a cameo as the outgoing president.

The movie’s title, in fact, carries perhaps an unintended double meaning, inasmuch as another strong year would, indeed, provide the series a measure of redemption from “Day Six.” Granted, on the seventh day even God supposedly rested, but based on a high-octane closing preview of what’s to come, there’ll be no such luxury for Jack Bauer.

24: Redemption

Fox, Sun. Nov. 23, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in South Africa and Los Angeles by Teakwood Lane Prods. in association with Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Brian Grazer, Howard Gordon, Evan Katz, Jon Cassar, Kiefer Sutherland, Manny Coto, David Fury; co-executive producers, Stephen Kronish, Brad Turner, Alex Gansa, Brannon Braga, Juan Carlos Coto; producers, Michael Klick, Paul Gadd; director, Cassar; writer, Gordon.

Crew: Camera, Rodney Charters; production designers, Joseph Hodges, Henri Du Rand; editor, Scott Powell; music, Sean Callery; casting, Debi Manwiller, Peggy Kennedy. RUNNING TIME: 120 MIN.

Cast: Jack Bauer - Kiefer Sutherland Carl Benton - Robert Carlyle Frank Tramell - Gil Bellows Jonas Hodges - Jon Voight President Allison Taylor - Cherry Jones Henry Taylor - Colm Feore

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