24: Season Four Movie Review
Having saved the President from assassination, the country from both nuclear and viral threats, and having been addicted to heroin, lost his wife and had to murder his boss, one understands when in the first moments of season four Jack Bauer is under different employment. No longer at CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) - in fact not even welcome there - Jack is now the chief bodyguard for Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane). Jack's love interest for the day, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), happens to be his boss' daughter, and when dad and daughter are kidnapped, ransomed and threatened with live web-syndicated trial and execution, Bauer must again brace the corridors of CTU and endeavor to save the day, for the fourth time.
Naturally, this is just the beginning. The terrorists of the 24 world have had three tries to get things right, and on this their fourth, they throw everything they have at the hapless folks of the CTU. Led by the indomitable and awfully slippery Habib Marwan (Arnold Voslo) an endless network of terrorists serve up a medley of memories from seasons past: nukes, presidential assassinations, kidnappings and torture galore. It is typically thrilling stuff but somehow this time it works even better than before.
Perhaps we can attribute the success of season four not only to its ingenious plot twists and its unrepentant determination to shock its audience, but to its unique and complex cast of characters. Gone are the banalities of the Kim and Chase dynamic, as are the incredulous stories of cougars and murderous husbands. Instead, we are treated to the private lives of a terrorist cell led by fiery matriarch Dena Araz (Shohreh Aghdashloo). Those missing the spark of former President David Palmer's former wife Sherry (Penny Johnson) will no doubt latch on to Dena, a less cartoonish incarnation of the desperately devoted mother from hell. Wisely, creator Joel Surnow reintroduces some of our old favorites, including sentimental ones like Tony (Carlos Bernard) and Michelle (Reiko Aylesworth). However, it is computer technician Chloe O'Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub) who steals the show. Chloe is a tour de force of fidgety neurosis cutting through the hurricane of chaos that is the CTU office with incredible comic charm. When she finally gets out from behind her desk, picks of a massive automatic weapon and fires it, one cannot help but stand and cheer.
Of course, there are never 24 good hours in a day no matter how great a day you're having... and Jack Bauer's day is not at all times as thrilling as it is at others. Erin Driscoll (Alberta Watson) and her suicidal daughter are a drag, and the three-hour CEOs with guns subplot is an indigestible stretch. Audrey too proves only slightly less an irritation than former love interests.
Such points are arbitrary and I mention them more to credit myself with some degree of objectivity than to cast negative light on a show that shines so brilliantly. Besides, on DVD you can just click "skip" whenever Audrey's dour eyes dull out the screen. What Surnow has achieved in 24 and in season four particularly, is a revolution of cliffhanger television. It is relevant, dark, engaging and ridiculous -- in a word, superb.
This DVD set includes 39 deleted scenes, an intriguing addition considering the importance of editing in a program that puts time and pace at its center. Commentaries are similarly illuminating. Reserve a weekend; if you start watching, you won't stop.