Sunday, July 4, 2010

Best Foreign Language Film Postmortem, Part II — A Prophet

(Be sure to read yesterday's The Secret in Their Eyes review first if you haven't yet!)

We've all seen prison movies and we've all seen stories about young criminals rising through the ranks. Both tend to be pulpy, the former a bit more so than the latter, but the French film A Prophet manages to mix the two with a dash of coming-of-age story and an unobtrusive whiff of racial politics to produce a rather terrific piece of work, frankly one of the best films I've ever seen in either subgenre.

The story begins with a scrawny, broke, illiterate, and terrified 19-year-old Arab named Malik getting thrown into prison for six years for hitting a cop (whether or not he was provoked or it even went down the way the police say is never specified). Malik tries his best to settle in and not get fucked up or killed behind bars but the movie quickly throws us the curveball when the prison's crime boss Luciani gives Malik two options: either kill a witness he shares a cell block with before he testifies, or die. So Malik hides a razor blade in his mouth then pretends like he's gonna meet the guy for prison sex and kills him in just about the most harrowing and bloody onscreen death of the year.

So Malik is now part of Luciani's crew, like it or not, and becomes a mafia errand boy basically because it's better than dying. He learns to read and write and makes a friend in prison and eventually gets twelve-hour furloughs for outwardly good behavior, during which he does drug smuggling and murder for Luciani while surreptitiously making contacts in the criminal world and developing his own network. The film takes its time, running 150 minutes as we watch Malik make the most of his prison sentence, but stays riveting, ending with one of my favorite final thirty or so seconds of a film before the credits roll that I've seen in a long time, a dialogue-free sequence involving a lot of cars that perfectly shows how full the circle has been come.

Much of the credit must go to lead actor Tahar Rahim. He only plays the character across six years but the changes to his hair and beard and the rougher look the makeup artists gradually give his face pale in comparison to the change in the way he carries himself. While remaining youthful his posture and tone and the look in his eyes imperceptibly shift minute-by-minute, transforming the scared kid from the first scene whose ass you're sure you could kick into a confident and intimidating crime boss by the end. Actors have undergone less transformation and character development throughout decade-long TV series, let alone single movies. It makes you wish there could be a sequel so you could see what happens to Malik over the next six years.

But maybe it's for the best if there isn't one. I've seen enough crime stories to know that what happens next would inevitably have to be it all crumbling around him, and if I want to see all that I'll just watch Scarface or the Godfather movies again. A Prophet is great entertainment simply because it's kinda awesome to watch this guy climb the ranks from the unlikeliest of places. Far from a stodgy "foreign drama" cliché, it's a bloody, tense, and occasionally even satisfying good time. Although it was released in France in 2009 I didn't see it until well into 2010, so I'm not gonna insert it into my best of 2009 list, but it's a sure bet for a high rank on my list this year.

4 Stars out of 5

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The Secret in Their Eyes vs. A Prophet final verdict: I'm not gonna bury the lede here — A Prophet, hands down. The Academy goofed. Not badly, since The Secret in Their Eyes is a fine film, but it's just not as good as A Prophet. It's actually easier than you might think to compare the two since both fall under the genre umbrella of crime drama, Secret being a murder mystery and Prophet being a rising crime boss story, but in both cases the genre is merely the mask for a what boils down to character pieces about their protagonists.

Comparing their crime drama elements, A Prophet scores a knockout victory. I've seen characters working their way up the crime ladder before, yes, but only a dozen or so times. Murder mysteries on the other hand I've seen and read somewhere close to a thousand of, so Prophet simply feels less stale than Secret. It actually brings new ideas to the rising crime boss narrative by setting it in prison and making the star an Arab, but while Secret is a classily-shot and beautiful-to-observe murder mystery that doesn't change the fact that at the script level it's just kind of another murder mystery.

Looking to the character studies it comes down to performance, and as engaging as Ricardo Darín's melancholy is in Secret in Their Eyes Tahar Rahim brings fire and visceral emotion to Malik in A Prophet that Darín simply can't match. He doesn't come even close, really. Also, Secret spans twenty-five years while Prophet only spans six, and other than some gray dye in his hair and beard Darín basically gives the same performance in each time frame. Rahim meanwhile evolves from a puff ball to something made of iron before our eyes, and he does it without even needing any dye.

So why did the Academy go with The Secret in Their Eyes for Best Foreign Language Film? First temptation might be to hone in on Secret being a bit chillier and more elegant while Prophet is something raw and dirty, but seeing as the gritty, sweaty The Hurt Locker swept the whole damn show, even writing categories it had no business winning in, that's not quite right. No, here's the real thing: The Secret in Their Eyes is about an old man looking back on his life, while A Prophet is about a young man looking ahead to the rest of his life, and the people who vote for Best Foreign Language Film are, by and large, for lack of a better word, decrepit. Prophet was the victim of some straight-up ageism.

But as a young man myself (just one year younger than Malik at the end of the film, and I haven't even put in the first steps towards building my criminal empire yet!), I hereby declare A Prophet the true winner. A Secret in Your Eyes, you should FedEx your statue to A Prophet by this coming Friday. It ain't too late to set things right.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Best Foreign Language Film Postmortem, Part I — The Secret In Their Eyes

Months after the fact I've finally gotten the chance to see Juan José Campanella's The Secret in Their Eyes, the Argentinian drama-mystery-thriller-romance hybrid that somewhat unexpectedly went home with 2009's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. I admit I walked into the theater with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, because I really loved the French film A Prophet and was a little miffed that this other random movie I'd never even heard of before Oscar night shut it down.

That's not to imply that I give a shit about the Oscars in any meaningful way. A quick glance at my favorite movies of 2009 reveals that I didn't regard The Hurt Locker as last year's masterpiece, and the fact that Chicago beat out Gangs of New York, The Pianist, The Two Towers, Minority Report, 25th Hour, Hero, Catch Me If You Can, and Adaptation in 2002's Best Picture race (the latter five not even being nominated) remains one of those horrifying realties that I can't believe actually happened, like the Salem Witch Trials or George W. Bush's presidency.

But hey, it's World Cup season. Competition between countries is all the rage right now! So in that spirit let's put France and Argentina head to head not on the soccer field but in the movie theater and find out exactly what went down Oscar night, stacking The Secret in Their Eyes and A Prophet up against one another. First I'll review each film individually then the judges (note: the judges is me) will compare and contrast and make their final decision.

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The Secret in Their Eyes is at its core a character drama dressed up in a mystery movie suit. A Buenos Aires criminal investigator named Benjamin Esposito becomes professionally and personally fixated on solving the 1974 rape and murder of a 23-year-old schoolteacher, a case which continues to haunt him into his twilight years in 1999. By themselves the murder mystery and thriller elements are executed with skill but little genuine grit or panache, playing out engagingly but much like several hundred other murder mysteries you've seen and read before.

But that's okay, because as the movie unfolds it quickly becomes apparent that the mystery is only the top layer of what is actually a character study of Esposito and all his obsession and melancholy and particularly his unrequited love of his department chief, a lawyer named Irene for whom he carries a torch for over a quarter of a century. Yeah, there's some clue-gathering and puzzle-solving and even a rather technically spectacular chase scene, but after the murder has been solved the movie continues on for another thirty or forty minutes probing deeper still into Esposito's psyche, particularly the older Esposito in 1999 as he tries to work out his pains and regrets by writing out his 1974 experience with the case in the form of a novel.

Lead actor Ricardo Darín does fine work as Esposito, lending the character gravitas, but always feels a bit emotionally distant, even when we see him in moments that should be of genuine grief or joy. I'd say that the movie is stolen out from under him by Soledad Villamil as Irene, who radiates one hell of a sexy mix of of feminine elegance and investigatorial competence, and especially by Guillermo Francella as Esposito's alcoholic assistant / partner Pablo. You don't expect to laugh much going into an award-winning foreign drama, but although he does do some dramatic heavy lifting Pablo is a surprisingly hilarious and droll character who made me guffaw several times.

Director Juan José Campanella (whose work you may be unknowingly familiar with even if you've never seen an Argentinian film in your life, as he has directed episodes of Law & Order, House, and 30 Rock) brings to the film beautiful lighting and classy camera work and frequent close-ups. It's visually intoxicating if occasionally a bit cold and overly mannered, like being in a fine art museum — a feast for the mind and the eyes that rarely raises your heart rate or invites you to truly engage.

The filmmaking showstopper is unquestionably a dazzling five-minute single-shot sequence at a soccer match a little past the movie's midway point, which starts out in the sky far above the city and the stadium and then cranes in close for a really cool sequence of investigation, dialogue, and then an elaborate chase through the stadium's facilities all without a single cut. It's not quite the long take in Children of Men's climax but it's just about the next best thing. I've heard a few people argue (usually in Children of Men-related discussions) that gratuitous long shots are a gimmick to captivate easily-impressed dumbasses, but I'm an easily-impressed dumbass, so that's alright with me.

The Secret in Their Eyes is a true visual novel. I didn't need to read the credits (well, actually, I couldn't read the credits since they were in Spanish, but you know what I mean) to guess that it was based off a book; I haven't seen a movie where it was more obvious in months. If you go primarily looking for a mystery that will tax and surprise you you'll be let down and would frankly be better off watching some of Campanella's House episodes, but if you feel like watching a gorgeous and moody character study with a rich vein of romance and a mystery thriller coat of paint then I think you'll be impressed. It may not be a flawless work of art but it is art, with something to say and passion and motivation behind it, which is a lot more than I can say for soulless product like Clash of the Titans or Alice in Wonderland or Iron Man 2.

3 Stars out of 5

Review of A Prophet and final verdict on 2009's true best foreign film tomorrow.

(I should also note that The Secret in Their Eyes is the first foreign film I've seen in months where there actually appeared to be someone else in the theater within a couple years of my age rather than everybody being three decades older than me at the minimum. But I guess she didn't realize it was gonna be one of them readin' pictures because she got up and left a few scenes in. Sex and the City 2 was playing across the hall, so maybe she just got confused, so confused that she mistook a bearded middle-aged Argentinian man for Sarah Jessica Parker for nearly five minutes.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Tale of Two Finales, Part II — 24

It's funny — for years I had considered Lost to be "real" television and 24 a guilty pleasure sideshow attraction unworthy of shining Lost's shoes, so I never would have guessed until a few weeks before their back-to-back finales (around the time we got the Lost episode entitled "Across the Sea") that 24 would end up being the more coherent, competent, and recommendable series by a pretty big margin. That's not to say that 24 is perfect and it's sure as shit not to imply that perfection was even a blip on the hazy horizon for its eighth, final, filler-choked season, but by and large I thought it did well by its protagonist and left behind a somewhat proud decade-long legacy of constant cliffhangers, gratuitous violence, sudden deaths, and absurd plot twists.

Also, the nice thing about 24 is that each season stands alone, as the overriding threat and mysteries and major villains are pretty well cleaned out every year. I mean, sure, you gotta keep track of big picture stuff like who's President of the United States, which main characters are dead, and where exactly Jack Bauer stands with CTU and the government, but unlike Lost where the entire series-spanning mystery was reliant on its eventually botched conclusion, a bad season of 24 (and there is at least one really bad one, the dreaded season six) can be seamlessly skipped and doesn't sour what came before — all this being a longwinded way to say that whatever silliness followed, season one of 24 remains a clockwork action thriller, one of the absolute best produced in film or television over the last decade.

But we're not here to discuss the first season. Not yet, anyway. Quite the contrary, let's get into the show's ending.


It goes without saying that the resolution to the final season's running storyline, the all-encompassing peace treaty MacGuffin, was mostly uninspired, as 24's overarching plots tend to be. Federal agent Jack Bauer killed his way up a chain of Russians to discover who was behind the murder of his love interest Renee Walker and eventually found that the conspiracy went up to Russian President Yuri Suvarov himself (with evil former US President Charles Logan in on it too, naturally). So Jack grabbed him a sniper rifle, found a vantage point, and got ready to assassinate a foreign head of state on US soil — at the signing of a peace treaty, no less! I confess I was vaguely excited by this, not because I still hold onto some kind of Cold War-era grudge, but because Jack Bauer, annihilator of terrorists, ending the series as a wanted terrorist would have been some serious full circle shit.

But it was not to be, of course. Jack frequently steps up to the line but rarely over, and much like every time in the series that he threatened to maim and / or kill a terrorist's wife or kids to get them to talk or when he threatened to kill President Logan in season five, Jack was unable pull the trigger and instead turned himself in. However, he was able to encourage US President Allison Taylor to step away from the fraudulent peace accord and vow to bring Suvarov to justice, so that's awesome, except that I never cared about the silly peace treaty anyway.

But that's okay, more or less. You see, unlike Lost, a mythology-centric show whose writers and fanboys laughably tried to claim was "always about the characters" in the final season when they realized they wouldn't be able to satisfyingly or coherently wrap up said mythology, 24 really was always about the character of Jack Bauer (and to a much lesser but not negligible extent, his longest-running ally, newly-promoted CTU Director Chloe O'Brian). Want proof? Ask a random Joe who knows of but has never seen Lost to tell you about the show and he probably won't be able to tell you about Jack Shephard or Kate Austen, but he probably will be able to tell you that it's about a plane crash on a mysterious island. You know, the mythology. Ask a random Joe who knows of but has never seen 24 and he probably won't be able to explain the story of any specific season, but I bet he will be able to tell you that it's about an oft-torturing loose cannon federal agent named Jack Bauer.

And thus the final twenty or so minutes of the last episode, which got past the season's thriller story and turned their focus on Jack, mostly satisfied. Basically, government mercenaries took Jack out to the back of a building to kill him but just in time President Taylor called, ordered them to stand down, and gave Jack a head start to get out of the country (thus setting up the movie, which is indeed confirmed to be set in Europe). By itself that doesn't sound great but the writers smartly realized that the show's key relationship, the one fans really cared about, wasn't between Jack and the president or Jack and any of his field partners or romantic interests or even Jack and his daughter Kim, but between Jack and Chloe, and the show's last scene was an emotional goodbye between the two via satellite, with Jack thanking Chloe for everything she'd done over the years and Chloe blubbering. No, it wasn't among the finest human drama of the TV season but I sure felt more genuine emotion during that scene than I did during Lost's asinine final revelation.

Better still, former President Charles Logan, caught conspiring with terrorists yet again and with the authorities closing in on him, shot his right-hand man before turning the gun on himself. And in perhaps the finale's most subtly brilliant twist, Logan couldn't even blow his own brains out properly and instead wound up a vegetable — an ignominious and viscerally satisfying fate for Jack Bauer's longest-running nemesis.

The season as a whole was admittedly a lukewarm one, arguably second worst in the series' history behind the bafflingly awful Frankenstein monster of stitched-together reheated storylines that was season six. This is largely due to the presence of a really terrible character named Dana Walsh who spent the entire first half of the season wrapped up in a moronic, neverending subplot about being stalked and manipulated by her redneck ex-boyfriend, a plot so stupid we wouldn't have cared even if it had involved a beloved character from seasons past, much less a brand new one. Adding insult to injury, it all wound up moot and pointless anyway when she just killed all her subplot's supporting characters we had spent hours wasting time with, they were never mentioned again, and she turned out to be the mole inside CTU and was shot dead by Bauer several episodes later. But not nearly as dead as she killed the story's pacing and momentum every time she stepped onscreen. Dana was maybe the worst character in the history of 24, and that's saying something.

Beyond the contemptible Miss Walsh, season eight was mostly about some terrorists from the fictional Islamic Republic of Kamistan who planned to assassinate their leader for trying to make peace with the United States (at which they were successful) and set off a dirty bomb in Manhattan (at which they were foiled) before they got killed off and the focus switched over to the Russians above them for the final act. It wasn't innovative or compelling storytelling by itself but served as a sturdy enough clothesline on which to hang chases and gunfights and explosions and 24's trademark frequent, often sudden deaths of major characters.

That's 24's true legacy — its style. It's shamelessly style over substance. The stories were generally predictable, through-the-motions B-movie stuff about terrorists wanting to either kill or control the president and deploy nuclear bombs, missiles, viruses, or nerve gas in major US cities (outside of season five's absurd, brilliant, and hilarious twist of the head terrorist being revealed as the President of the United States of America), but it's the way these stories were executed that made 24 one of the best genre shows of the last decade; a show that was not only narratively and structurally ahead of its time when it debuted in 2001 but, looking at most of the bland and episodic fare that passes for action and thriller television right now, is still ahead of its time today.

24 is the highest evolution to date of 80s action shows like The A-Team, shows which had virtually no serialization, incredibly rigid and predictable episode structure, one straightforward plot at a time, small casts of characters with no turnover, zero meaningful risk to anyone, and no consequences. These shows are incredibly boring and frankly unwatchable today. 24 in contrast has tight serialization that demands your attention, new and different action unfolding in new and different locations every single episode (although there is admittedly a roughly recycled season structure from year to year), tons of stories running concurrently and intercrossing, a large and fluid cast with a high attrition rate totaling 42 main cast members across its eight seasons, and most importantly, real risk and consequences.

Yeah, the biggest overriding threat of each season inevitably gets foiled, but in the meantime main and major recurring characters get killed off constantly and often with very little warning (sometimes more than one an episode), presidents get assassinated, Air Force One gets shot down, a nuclear bomb gets set off in Los Angeles, bioweapons released into major urban centers, CTU has most of its personnel killed off in a nerve gas attack, Jack Bauer's wife gets murdered, and basically all kinds of shit goes down. This keeps the show fresh, compelling, and tense and keeps you on your toes while you watch (that, and the fact that about 95% of episodes end in an "oh god what happens next!" cliffhanger). If more action-adventure shows were to take their queues from 24 in this regard, then, well, I'd watch more action-adventure shows.

The first season, as I mentioned up top, remains the gold standard. It can be vaguely surreal to watch season one for the first time if you came into the show later on in its run, as it lacks many of 24's future signature elements — there's no loose weapons of mass destruction, no Islamic terrorists, the President of the United States never appears (future President David Palmer is a main character, but he's Senator Palmer at this point), no Chloe O'Brian, no Jack angsting about his dead wife, no "TELL ME WHERE THE BOMB IS!", and most strangely, no torture. At one point Jack threatens to shove a towel down a guy's throat, let it partially digest, and rip it out along with his stomach lining, but the guy still doesn't talk and Jack doesn't even make good on his promise. It's sort of a prototype season, and that uncertainty gives it a freshness and an experimental nature that future seasons just couldn't match.

Best of all, outside of a moronic three-episode arc where Teri Bauer gets amnesia because Fox didn't understand the show yet and told the showrunners they couldn't leave her unconscious in a ditch for three episodes like they had planned, there's no filler.

The biggest problem with every other season of 24 is right there in the title — twenty-four hours of television (or about seventeen once you cut out the commercial break time) is a lot to write every year, and it inevitably leads to the show bursting at the seams with filler, a tendency which came to a tragic head with Dana Walsh in the final season. Season one's most impressive element is the way it keeps almost everything on task, juggling countless balls with only the one amnesia misstep as it moves towards a hell of a climax.

Seasons two and three bring the weapons of mass destruction and President Palmer and constant torture that we know and love into the 24 mix and have A-plots nearly as exciting as the first season's, but unfortunately are held back from true greatness by the filler rearing its ugly head. Jack's daughter Kim Bauer and her run from her crazed babysitting employee is the culprit in season two and President Palmer's struggles with an angry billionaire campaign donor eat up screentime in season three. Season five is the show's second greatest. It lacks the relatively down-to-earth nature of the freshman season — in fact, this is pretty much where they abandoned all traces of realism and said "fuck it, let's go crazy" — but the glory of the nerve gas attack on CTU and the villains being President Logan and the guy who played Robocop cannot be denied.

The fourth, seventh, and eighth years are the show's weaker efforts (and the less said about the putrid season six, the better). Some 24 fans argue that season four is better than season seven, but they're mistaken, because at least season seven shakes things up a little by moving the action from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. (the first time the show left California outside of a few season three episodes in Mexico and the TV movie set in Africa) and bringing Jack Bauer's former closest ally Tony Almedia back as a villain. Season four is amusing pulp but about when the Islamic terrorists and nuclear missiles in LA started to get a little stale, and is also the only season where the show's political content actually made me wince.

Much was made through 24's run of the show's perceived right-wing bias, mostly due to the parade of nonstop torture to make bad guys talk and the fact that the show's creator, Joel Surnow, is indeed a right-winger who would later, after leaving 24, go on to create the howlingly idiotic, pathetic, laughable, and swiftly cancelled 1/2 Hour News Hour, a "conservative version" of The Daily Show minus all the wit, humor, and insight. It got to the point where right-wing forums and bloggers pretty much adopted 24 as "their" show and real-life politicians were pointing to the fictional scenarios within as justification for torture and dropping "who would Jack Bauer vote for?" into their stump speeches.

But even as someone who generally doesn't stress too much over the political nuances of fiction that isn't explicitly political I admit being uncomfortable in 24's fourth season when villainous Osama bin Laden stand-in Habib Marwan released his evil human rights attorneys — yes, you heard me, his evil human rights attorneys — to stop CTU from torturing bad guys, and it was portrayed as a grand moment when Jack Bauer managed to subvert them to heroically torture again (getting the information he needed to save America from nuclear annihilation after about twenty seconds of breaking fingers, of course).

I don't know if the passing of showrunning duties from Joel Surnow to Howard Gordon changed the show's tone or if they simply decided they needed to balance the scales, but season five threw off some suspicion of 24 being right-wing propaganda by making the big bad Republican President Charles Logan, who had facilitated terrorist attacks on American soil to frame another country so that he could start a war to secure oil pipelines. There seemed to be a little bit less torture after this point; as a matter of fact in season six CTU tortured the wrong person, Nadia Yassir, a Muslim woman no less, who would go on to become Director of CTU Los Angeles by the end of the day.

There was also an interestingly feminist bent to season eight. Sure, Renee Walker got gunned down as soon as she had sex like she was in an 80s slasher flick, but all three of the season's major factions — the United States, the Islamic Republic of Kamistan, and CTU New York, the latter two of which were headed by men at season's start — wound up under command of women by the finale: President Allison Taylor for the US, Dalia Hassan for the IRK, and Chloe O'Brian for CTU. For such a manly and macho show, I thought that was kind of neat.

So, wrapping the series up: if you haven't seen it, would I recommend you watch the entirety of 24? No, not really. I wouldn't subject the sixth season of 24 to anybody; it's almost as bad as the sixth season of Lost. But narrowing things down, would I recommend you watch the first season? Hell yeah, even if you find the show's political content repellant and have no intention of getting wrapped up in a near 200 episode-long narrative. It's awesome; pure crackerjack entertainment. How far you want to go beyond that is entirely your call, but it's pretty easy to get addicted and keep going and going, even if you do it while rolling your eyes, groaning at, and fast-forwarding through some of the moronic subplots. And hey, if you barrel straight through to the end, I think you'll be relatively satisfied by the finale, as I was.

Of course, whether or not you even consider this the "real" finale is pretty subjective. For one, the showrunners had every intention to return for a ninth season until they were informed right before shooting the final two episodes that they were cancelled due to falling ratings and soaring budget, so everything in the last episode was planned about a week in advance (which makes the fact that it far surpassed the Lost finale, which had its date set for three years, all the more sad and hilarious). More importantly, the 24 big screen movie which continues Jack Bauer's story from the end of season eight is not only announced but well into preproduction, with the script written and everything, so this is, at best, an impromptu psuedo-finale.

I'm definitely nervous about the 24 film. The 2008 TV movie 24: Redemption where Jack Bauer went up against African dictator Benjamin Juma was set in real-time just like the show's regular episodes, being a two hour-long representation of two hours, but the upcoming theatrical film has been announced to be a feature-length representation of a 24-hour day, the first time in 192 episodes (plus miniature prequels, interquels, side-stories, and the TV movie) that 24 has thrown out its signature real-time format.

This could free them up or it could be an absolute fucking disaster. Far too many sure bets as of late, like Iron Man 2, have wound up disappointing for me to assume that the film adaptation of a series that has fucked up so many times in the past will be good. Or even watchable. I'm not concerned about filler this time around but I am concerned that it's just gonna be a stupid and generic cookie-cutter dime-a-dozen action flick devoid of any substance or originality. Not that I wouldn't be thrilled to be proven completely wrong, though. My only specific wish is that they bring back Mia Kirshner as Mandy to be one of the main villain's henchmen, because she's the only major bad guy that made it out of the series, through three seasons no less, alive and uncaptured. I reckon she needs a good villain's death to put a bow on things. Also, if he's not busy with another Bourne movie, I bet Paul Greengrass could do a pretty damn good job as director.

There's also rumors about them about doing a spinoff TV series with Freddie Prinze Jr.'s character Cole Ortiz in a few years, but that's an absolute fucking joke. 24 is Jack Bauer. Jack Bauer is 24. No Jack, no show, and definitely not one starring Cole. The only two non-Jack characters I could see being cool enough to anchor even a six-to-eight episode Jackless mini-season are Curtis Manning and Renee Walker, and both of them are dead, the former by Jack's own hand. So 24 is done on television, at least as something with any dignity whatsoever. The movie is our last best hope.


Chances of me ever rewatching 24 from beginning to end: 5%

Chances of me ever rewatching season eight of 24 while skipping most of the Dana Walsh subplot: 20%

Chances of me ever rewatching season one of 24: 65%

Chances of me watching the 24 movie when it comes out in theaters: 99%