“Right now, terrorists are planning to assassinate a presidential candidate. My wife and daughter have been kidnapped… and people that I work with may be involved in both. I’m Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and today is the longest day of my life.” – Jack Bauer monologue in the opening episode of most seasons.
What is it with these men with initials JB? James Bond. Jason Bourne. And now Jack Bauer. I am not even sure if it was a conscious decision by their respective creators. Somewhere down the line, Tom Clancy missed the drift and named his agent Jack Ryan. And so he never got to the cult status the other three undeniably enjoy. Hard luck Mr. Ryan.
The problem with Ian Fleming’s James Bond is that, he is a show off. He needs to constantly show off his skills. He simply has the urge to flaunt his license to kill. And though he is known to follow the adage, “kill first, ask questions later”, he wastes just too much time chasing women and having sex. He rarely gets injured. Or should I say never? Till about Casino Royale, which was the twenty first movie, we never got to see the other side of James Bond. Superheroes need a back story. It makes them dark and vulnerable. Perfection is not good. And in the case of James Bond, it is unexplained, unwarranted perfection.
That is where Jason Bourne comes in. Back story? Well, that is exactly what he is trying to figure out. He is smart, can kill, and run for his life. He devises inventive techniques to get out of a situation, sometimes scientific, sometimes practical, sometimes both that you instantly idolize him. Bourne is unmoved, emotionally and mentally strong in all situations. And he avoids physical damage to himself with unbelievable precision compared to the other two. He travels between countries as if he just took a Virar fast from Andheri. He is a wonderful schemer, and his presence of mind can give Jackie Chan’s limbs an inferiority complex. And of course, Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon gave us three cracker of movies with some kickass soundtrack. That just did it.
Jack Bauer is ruthless. He has a long history, and often, whether you like it or not, he has a family to protect along with his country. Yes, Jack is loud and more dramatic than the above two. Yes, Jack has tremendous stamina compared to the above two. Yes, Jack is your quintessential Indian B-movie hero who doesn’t eat a single bullet in an ambush, who operates amidst immense physical and mental pain and he has only 24 hours to do all that. Hey, even Jason Bourne took a holiday in Goa!? However, there is magic realism when it comes to Jack Bauer(Not the magic realism wrt cinema, but just a literal meaning). He doesn’t operate alone. He has a whole counter terrorism unit, the government etc. working to provide him with every resource. That way, he has people covering and backing him up. It does bring in a little bit of credibility to the proceedings, though not entirely. But Jack doesn’t waste time. He doesn’t use inscrutable techniques the way Bourne does sometimes. He is plain, raw, in your face and thinks the world is simple where men are either black or white. And that is why Jack Bauer is way cooler!
All said and done, am still waiting for the Bourne sequel that Matt Damon has signed up for. And I am definitely looking forward to Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond. For the sheer opulence involved. And am also waiting for season 8, when our own B movie hero Mr. Anil Kapoor, appears on 24!