US President Sally Sheridan falls victim to a sniper's bullet. As the gunman tries to make good his escape, he is ambushed by his co-conspirators, who want him dead rather than risk his capture exposing their plot. Some time later, a hunter out in the woods discovers a man suffering from gunshot wounds, dangling from his parachute in a tree. The man has amnesia and a tattoo above his collarbone of the Roman numeral for 13: XIII.
The rest of this mini-series owes a lot to the likes of '24' but is not done quite as well. Stephen Dorff plays the 'quietly-spoken but deadly special agent' role that Kiefer Sutherland perfected. His immediate opposite number is played, somewhat implausibly, by Val Kilmer, who has the additional handicap of being codenamed "The Mongoose". (The last mongoose I saw was a lithe and blindingly-fast predator. The producers of XIII were obviously prepared to accept 1 out of 3)
The rest of the supporting cast are played largely by actors whose faces will send you scuttling to the Internet Movie Database to remind you where you've seen them before. Chief amongst these actors is the ever-reliable Stephen McHattie as General Carrington who, it would appear, *SPOILER* gets to be elected President of the United States by the time of the follow-up TV series.
Glamour is provided by two female leads: Lucinda Davis, taking a break from voice work to play Steve Rowland's NSA handler Jones; and the gorgeous Caterina Murino, fresh from Casino Royale and the St. Trinian's reboot when this was filmed. Murino's role as the multi-pierced and tattooed Sam is not entirely convincing, however, not least because of her classical good looks.
As with `24', wherein just meeting Jack Bauer is likely to adversely affect your life-expectancy, Dorff leaves a trail of bodies behind him as he attempts to stop the conspiracy and find the elusive number one (I). In another similarity with the adventures of the CTU's best agent, the various twists and turns of the plot include a number of characters possibly not being who they seem to be, or are they? That said, if you don't guess the identity of `I' before the shock ending, you've not been paying attention.
In all, XIII is an entertaining piece of post-9/11 hokum, but one that's been done better elsewhere.