Acclaimed thriller returns with a bang

File photo.
File photo.

“The following takes place between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m.” So starts the much-anticipated return of “24,” the acclaimed thriller that previously ran on Fox for eight seasons.

Beginning in November 2001 and ending in May 2010, “24” was a by-product of its time: a show reflecting on the paranoia and fear of a post-9/11 America and the fight against terrorism. It made a star and Emmy winner out of Kiefer Sutherland and turned his character of Jack Bauer, a no-holds-barred Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) agent, into a TV icon.

Its action scenes and groundbreaking narrative structure enthralled audiences and its frequent use of torture sequences sparked numerous controversies. But after four years, would the show be able to replicate its past success? If Monday night’s two-hour premiere is any indication, it certainly can.

The ninth day of “24,” which is also working under the subtitle of “Live Another Day,” finds Jack Bauer on the run from the CIA in London. Now a fugitive of the law due to his actions at the end of season eight, Jack reunites with former CTU ally Chloe O’Brian to help prevent a possible assassination attempt on President Heller (returning cast member William Devane), who is the father of Jack’s former love Audrey Raines (Kim Raver).

“24” successfully eases back into its old formula in a number of ways. All of the “24” trademarks, such as the beat of a ticking clock before a commercial break, the use of split screen and the story playing out in real time, are back.

In addition to returning cast members like Sutherland and Mary Lynn Rajskub, the original series’ behind-the-scenes players, such as producer Howard Gordon (“Homeland”) and director Jon Cassar, have all come back for a new go-around.

Cassar, who in total has directed more than 60 episodes of “24,” wrings great excitement and tension out of the show’s many action sequences, thanks in part to Sean Callery’s pulse-pounding score and Jeffrey C. Mygatt’s excellent cinematography.

The only issue with easing back into the old way of doing things is the potential for resurrecting some of the troubles that plagued “24’s” later seasons, particularly the staleness of the show’s storytelling. As it neared the end, the original “24” found itself returning to the same narrative tropes (such as the presence of a mole deep within CTU) over and over again.

While the jury is out on if this will happen to “Live Another Day,” the new setting and truncated episode order (this season is billed as a “limited event series,” meaning 12 episodes instead of the usual 24), are welcoming signs of promise.

It also helps to have a cast as strong as the one that the producers have assembled for “Live Another Day.” Sutherland is once again outstanding as Jack Bauer. Sutherland, who does not utter a word until halfway through the premiere’s first hour, nails Jack’s intense physicality while also displaying his emotional gravitas.

Sutherland’s ability to speak volumes with just his tortured eyes and facial expressions is extremely impressive. Fellow returning cast members Mary Lynn Rajskub and Kim Raver ease into their roles with grace, while William Devane gives a heartbreaking performance as President Heller, who is starting to show signs of dementia.

The show’s new cast members also impress, with Benjamin Bratt and Tate Donovan adding a degree of calculated intrigue into their roles as the head of the CIA unit in London and President Heller’s chief-of-staff (and Audrey’s husband), respectively.

Former “Chuck” and “Dexter” alum Yvonne Strahovski is effective as a disgraced CIA agent trying to maintain her career, while John Boyega (who may or may not be the lead in the next “Star Wars” movie) and “Game of Thrones’” Michelle Fairley seem like potential standouts in their roles as a drone pilot accused of murder and the woman who may end up being this season’s Big Bad.

While this new season of “24” is not perfect (though, honestly, neither was the original), a strong cast and the faithful callbacks to the show’s old formula should give fans plenty of reason to be excited. “24: Live Another Day” airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.

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