Friday, September 24, 2004

Don't let 'Lost' get away

—Originally published 9.24.04

If you didn't catch the premiere of ABC's new series "Lost" Wednesday night, may I say: Wow. Don't make the mistake of missing any more episodes of what looks to be the year's best new show. Here's a quick summary:

A jet plane crashes on a remote island somewhere (presumably) in the Pacific Ocean, leaving just 48 survivors. Among them is a doctor named Jack, played by Matthew Fox in his first major role since "Party of Five." With his medical skills and cool-under-pressure personality, Jack is the default leader of this band of castaways.

After he helps a few fellow survivors, Jack enlists the aid of Kate (newcomer Evangeline Lilly) to stitch a wicked gash in his back -- with a travel sewing kit and, obviously, no anesthesia. The two become fast friends and spend the rest of the hour-long pilot searching for the plane's cockpit in hopes of finding a radio to call for help.

The show is the brainchild of writer/director J.J. Abrams, who at age 38 is rapidly approaching household-name status. Despite dealing with completely different subject matter, "Lost" is very reminiscent of Abrams' other ABC series, the cult hit "Alias." Both feature superior action and build tension that leaves the audience wanting more and more, all the while making the unbelievable relatable by grounding the series in characters with emotional depth.

Abrams is a master of the serial; if you thought the cliffhangers in "Alias" were tough to take, just what in the world is the mysterious beast prowling around this new show, knocking down trees and eating people one at a time? Hopefully we'll find out soon.

More important, though, "Lost" proves Abrams is no fluke. He has a rather checkered screenwriting career, which includes abominable movies like "Armageddon" and "Gone Fishin'," along with the modest hit "Joy Ride." However, none of those projects gave him complete control like "Alias" and now "Lost." For a film such as "Armageddon," it's easy to imagine a scenario where a good script from Abrams could be ravaged by a hack like director/producer Michael Bay.

Thus I was extremely pleased with the announcement earlier this year that Abrams will be at the helm of the next "Mission: Impossible" installment, starring Tom Cruise. I can think of no one I'd rather have driving this project than Abrams -- after all, "Alias" is a lot like the old "M: I" TV show.

So Abrams essentially gets to transfer "Alias" to the big screen with oh-by-the-way Tom Cruise as the box-office draw; and now the writer/director will have more time, more creative freedom and -- most important -- a monster budget.

The first "Impossible" film was OK; the second was much better under the watchful eye of action aficionado John Woo. But the third, with Abrams aboard, will undoubtedly be the best in the series -- and maybe one of the best action movies we've seen in a long time.

Now all we have to do is wait until 2006 -- sounds like a typical Abrams cliffhanger.

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