Rounding out a week's worth of hellish days for Jack Bauer, the seventh season of '24' shows no sign of slowing down. Delayed by the writer's strike, this season actually began with an exciting prequel called '24: Redemption' that aired back in November of 2008. It introduced some new characters, and specifically some new bad guys in the form of African warlords. After all the villains Jack has faced over the years, he's never faced genocidal maniacs on US soil.
Season seven begins where 'Redemption' left off. Jack is flying back to Washington D.C. to be investigated by Congress over allegations of torturing suspects (the timeliness of this subject works well in the story). This isn't the first time Jack's gotten into trouble for his actions, and as we find out in season seven, it won't be his last.
This season is just as fun as the past seasons. Jack is finally out of his native L.A., but he's still saving the world from international thugs. Now he's pinballing around Washington D.C., but at the same frantic pace he's grown so accustomed to.
The African warlords have mysteriously found their way to the US and are causing havoc with a device they've stolen that can tap into any secure government network, including those pertaining to...say... airliner navigation, or power grids. Yes we know it's far fetched, but that comes with the territory of '24.' You know what you're getting into when you slide that disc in. It's time to shut the brain down for a few hours and just watch Jack Bauer kick butt and talk gruffly.
Tony Almeida is back in this season. That's not a spoiler, since Fox saw it wise to spoil that fact with previews before the season started. It's fun having Tony back, with his constant scowl and brooding nature. In the sixth episode we get the backstory on why Tony didn't actually die when we, and Jack, thought he did. It's an unintentionally laugh-out-loud moment as it is ripped straight from the script of a soap opera, but this is '24,' just laugh and move on.
This season has so many different twists and turns it's hard to keep them all straight, and I won't even try to describe them here. It's not like describing the plot of a two-hour long movie. You wouldn't want me spoiling any of the plot for you anyway. That's the fun of '24,' that's its charm. You have no idea what it's going to throw at you, but rest assured there's always a mole somewhere inside the government.
The term "mixed-bag" is thrown around a lot, but if ever there was a Blu-ray to truly warrant the term, this is it. The video quality on this 1080p AVC-encoded transfer ranges from exquisite to despairing, and most of the time they appear together in the same shot.
Beginning with the good qualities, season seven's transfer features some great detail on close-ups of faces. Explosions look extremely lifelike. Contrast and delineation, in indoor scenes, are steady.
Now, the not so good. '24' is filled with hard focused, close-up shots of the actor's faces with the background appearing out of focus, most of the time these shots are performed with hand-held cameras. Whenever there's a close-up shot with a face focused in the foreground, and the background is a lighter color like blue or yellow (most of the time this happens with outside scene), you'd swear you just wandered into a sandstorm. The backgrounds become so full of grain that it completely distracts from the clarity and detail of the faces. It surpasses the "gritty film look" and only manages to draw your eye away from the action. It becomes almost maddening after a while. The transfer also suffers from occasional compression artifacts. Minor banding and even some aliasing were detected. Colors, especially in the day time scenes, seem boosted and appear over-saturated. Blacks stay fairly consistent throughout, but at times become soft and blend together.
The 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack fares much better than the problem plagued visual presentation. The soundtrack here is engrossing. Jack's gruff voice and the dialogue of the other characters is presented clean and clear in the center channel. Directionality to the other front channels with off-screen dialogue is also perfect. The surrounds harbor a great deal of effective ambient noise. Rumbling LFE is present throughout almost every episode (seeing as most episodes contain some type of explosion). Panning effects of cars driving by on one side or helicopters flying across the screen work perfectly. This is one of the better audio soundtracks I've heard from a television show. While it doesn't make up for the distracting video presentation, it does make this set a lot more enjoyable.
The most interesting person to listen to is Executive Producer/Director Jon Cassar. He's been with the show from the beginning, and you can tell when he is explaining certain aspects of the show how invested he is in '24.' Carlos Bernard, who plays Tony, is also fun to listen to. He and Cassar have good dialogue back and forth. The episodes featuring those two are the most exciting to listen to.
Sadly Kiefer doesn't make an appearance on any of the commentaries.
List of episodes that include commentary:
8:00AM-9:00AM: Executive Producer/Director Jon Cassar and Carlos Bernard 8:00AM-9:00AM: Executive Producer/Director Jon Cassar and Carlos Bernard 10:00AM-11:00AM: Executive Producers Manny Coto and Brandon Braga 12:00PM-1:00PM: Executive Producer/Director Jon Cassar and Annie Wersching 4:00PM-5:00PM: Executive Producer David Fury and Kakeem Kae-Kazim 5:00PM-6:00PM: Executive Producers Manny Coto, Brandon Braga, and Annie Wersching 7:00PM-8:00PM: Co-Executive Producer/Director Brad Turner and Tony Todd 8:00PM-9:00PM: Co-Executive Producer/Director Brad Turner, Composer Sean Callery, and James Morrison 9:00PM-10:00PM: Executive Producer Evan Katz, Manny Coto, Annie Wersching, and Bob Gunton 1:00AM-2:00AM: Executive Producers Howard Gordon and Jeffrey Nordung 5:00AM-6:00AM: Executive Producer Evan Katz, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Glenn Morshower 6:00AM-7:00AM: Executive Producer David Fury, Co-Executive Producer Alex Gansa, and Glenn Morshower 7:00AM-8:00AM: Executive Producer Howard Gordon and Jon Cassar
Even after seven seasons of watching Jack Bauer annihilate terrorists, I still get a kick out of it. '24' is constantly thinking up new ways to surprise its audience, and even when they use the same old tricks ("We have a mole!") they still do it in an entertaining way.
'24's first foray into the world of Blu-ray is a mixed bag. The video presentation leaves much to be desired. Some people will argue for the grain, and while I too am a lover of fine grain for a cinematic feel, the grain here could sandblast paint off a wall at times. The audio does add much needed quality to this set though. I will forever be a fan of Jack Bauer and his world-saving antics. I look forward to more '24' seasons being released on Blu-ray. If you're a fan of the show this is a must own to keep your collection up to date.
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