Friday, November 28, 2008

You Know We Have No Friends in Hollywood When …

Jack Bauer is back, this time in the fictional African country of Sangala and the embassy character is perceived as either a stuffed shirt or a nerdy government flack. Or if that seems like faint characterization, why not try “the huge weasel forcing Jack to comply with the subpoena?”

The real tough guy special agent (who never seems to eat, bath, sleep, take bathroom breaks) played by Kiefer Sutherland returned this past weekend with Redemption, a two-hour TV film. This was an extended teaser for die hard “24” fans, a lead up to its Season Seven which will kick off in January.

Jack Bauer has been globe-trotting since he was last seen on that cliff. For the past year, he’s been traveling to avoid a government subpoena to appear before Congress and answer questions about, well, torture for one thing. He’s landed in a made up country called, Sangala (filming was done in South Africa) to help an old Special Forces friend, Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle), who runs a school for young African boys.

The American Embassy character, Frank Trammell is played by Gil Bellows (of "Ally McBeal" fame, wearing black rimmed eyeglasses). He shows up between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm to serve the subpoena while issuing threats to end the school’s funding if Jack doesn’t comply (which, of course, he doesn’t).

An excerpt from the IMDB synopsis:

The 24 clock ticks. "The following takes place between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Events occur in real time." A stuffed shirt carrying a federal subpoena rides in a car.

[…] Carl Benton comes to talk to Jack with the stuffed shirt, Frank Trammell, the ambassador's chief political officer. Jack knows who he is, he got his messages. Frank tells him the senate subcommittee has questions about the torture and questioning of prisoners in Jack's custody and tries to serve him. Jack says if they want him, they can come get him. Trammell tells Benton that Jack's been ducking the subpoena for more than a year across three continents. Frank tells Benton it'd be a shame for his funding for the boys school to dry up because of Jack.

3:49 A helicopter takes off from the embassy as people try to gain entry. But Trammell's only letting in U.S citizens. A woman with a baby pleads with him, but even when she offers to do anything he wants, he coldly says he can't. Carl Benton calls for him, telling him he needs help. But Trammell can't spare any Marines because they're helping with the evacuation. Trammell says if Benton wants to get the 14 boys out, they have to get to him at the embassy. The last chopper leaves in an hour.


Chaos reigns at the embassy as desperate citizens try to find sanctuary. Jack pushes his way to the front of the crowd, telling the guard that Trammell is expecting him. The boys wait in the crush of people, Desmond fading fast. Trammell arrives and Jack, through the gate, tells him Benton is dead, but he has their paperwork. Trammell tells him there's a problem: they need the legal guardianship of a U.S. citizen. If Jack surrenders himself, Trammell will waive the requirement. Trammell says whatever happens to them will be on Jack. "I don't have a choice you son of a bitch, open the gate," Jack growls. . Trammell makes Jack go in first, keeping the boys on the other side. Once through, Jack is immediately handcuffed while the guard blocks the boys at the gate. As Jack screams for the boys to be let in, Trammell finally relents. They boys are safe inside as Jack is led away by guards.

[…] The helicopter takes off at the embassy as the screaming citizens are finally let inside, only to see the last form of transport depart. Willie reassuringly puts his hand on Jack's shoulder.

Trammell’s correct title would be Political Counselor. The Political Counselor in this movie could not spare some Marines? Ugh! The actor is too young for this position, by the way. What's with those thick-rimmed eyeglasses and wide side burns from the 1800's? And where’s the Regional Security Officer? Or the harassed Consular Officer who must looked at those papers before the evacuees get boarded? Of course, you probably have not seen Sandra Bullock in The Net, where she lost her American passport while overseas and asked if this was the visa she needed to go back to the U.S. when handed a piece of paper by some official at some embassy.

Would AFSA please let the Writer's Guild or the Screenwriter’s Federation of America know that we’d be happy to provide briefings to their writers or feedback for their scripts as they relate to the going-ons at embassies and consulates overseas and who does what where? Maybe we can provide some valuable insights to show that not all our guys are stuffed shirts? We have some dashing ones like in P & Me - true this one is fiction, but we have some real ones - good enough for a hot diplomatic calendar. Oh my lordy! A hot diplomat? (DSS may have anaphylactic shock!). That’s a script that still needs to be written. Truth to tell, I’d settle for a character who is a smart policy wonk, honorable, principled and who will kick ass if he (or she) needs to. Is that too much to ask?

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