Plot: What’s it about?
Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has been through some intense situations, from personal turmoil to life or death moments for world leaders to battles with international terrorists. Often with only hours to solve the crisis, no less. But it has been three years since he was last thrust into that kind of situation, though he has spent the past six months deep undercover. His goal was to bring drug kingpin Ramon Salazar to justice, a goal with Bauer was able to achieve. So it would seem as if another wrong had been righted, since Bauer survived and Salazar would rot in jail for the rest of his life. But as usual, the plan doesn’t work out as expected and once more, Bauer finds himself in an intense, immediate situation. An unknown group has contacted the FBI and demanded that Salazar be released from prison. If Salazar isn’t let out and allowed to flee, the group will unleash a lethal virus that could level Los Angeles. Bauer knows if the demands are offered, then a wave of terrorist violence will erupt, seeking the same brand of ransoms. At the same time, he also knows the group is serious and if Salazer isn’t released within six hours, the virus will be loose. In an effort to balance the issue, he sets out to find the source of the virus, which would let him bottle up the entire threat. In order to do so, he will have to free Salazer, though not in the manner that the group expects. As Bauer races to break Salazer out of prison himself, can he track down the source in time to save Los Angeles from the vicious virus?
The first season of 24 was a blast of intense, original television. A wild concept, a bold approach that could have been brilliant, but also could have backfired. After all, real time can limit the filmmakers more than a little, since minimal space for filler is available. The use of split screens put us multiple scenes at the same time, to watch as the entire epic unfolded. Kiefer Sutherland was thrust back into stardom and of course, audiences waited to see if more seasons would follow. As expected, 24 returned for another season and while it wasn’t as dynamic as the original, the entertainment value was still high. Sutherland was back and in fine form, while the story offered the same kinetic, rushed texture of the original. But could this premise shoulder a third season? I had my doubts, but once again, 24 had me glued to the screen. This season isn’t as wall to wall dynamic as the previous two, but the tension and urgency remain intact. So the episodes race by and while some misguided subplots clog up the works at times, this season is still potent. Sutherland returns and provides a stable base, while Elisha Cuthbert and Dennis Haysbert are back, but some new faces also steal some scenes. So a nice blend of new elements, but not enough to alter the tried & true formula of 24, which is Sutherland under pressure, in breakneck fashion, moving from crisis to crisis. The original season still reigns supreme, but this third season of 24 is impressive, so fans won’t want to miss this release.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. As expected, this new season of 24 looks quite impressive The prints look almost pristine throughout the season, while the visuals have a sharp and refined texture. This means softness is never a problem, so detail is high and image depth is top notch. I found colors to be bright and rich as well, especially the greens of the woods. No troubles with flesh tones either, as skin tones come across in warm, natural fashion. The contrast is quite good also, as black levels look stark and consistent, so even the shadows look excellent here.
Audio: How does it sound?
This show is all about tension, chases, and explosions, so of course, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 audio has ample chances to impress. The tense and action driven scenes put the speakers through the paces and then some, with creative and highly effective presence, which adds to the eerie, tense atmosphere. The more reserved scenes also sound terrific, while the musical score is tight & immersive here, a very memorable audio treatment indeed. I would expect this level of audio performance from a feature film, but few television shows can put out this kind of excellence. This release also includes a Spanish language option, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You can listen to audio commentary on some of the episodes, which lets you hear the inside scoop from various cast and crew members. I was more taken with the sessions than I expected, as they have ample insight into the highs and lows of the production. I think Sutherland’s comments were the most entertaining, but the crew members were more technical, so a well balanced assortment of tracks. A bunch of featurettes can also be found, which highlight the weapons & military force in 24, real life bioterrorism, and an inside look at two of the season’s most explosive sequences. This release also includes over forty deleted scenes, as well as a multi-angle feature on the Midnight Shootout sequence.