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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.67%
Worth A Look35.78%
Average: 27.52%
Pretty Bad: 18.35%
Total Crap: 14.68%

8 reviews, 61 user ratings

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Sum of All Fears, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"Packs a wallop."
4 stars

I’m not really interested in politics. What I know about the current “war on terrorism” is limited to what the American media feeds me, and I’m not too concerned with how the new political thriller The Sum of All Fears – a film that features a horrific attack on American soil - will fare with audiences who are weaned daily on vaguely ominous “terror alerts”. Taken outside the context of the current political climate (see: terrorists are more evil than ever!), The Sum of All Fears is simply a well-made and satisfying potboiler, one that benefits from a superlative cast and a screenplay that often zigs when one expects a zag.

The fourth film to be made from a Tom Clancy novel (following The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear & Present Danger), The Sum of All Fears takes various liberties, both with its source material and its own cinematic timeline (imagine the upcoming Die Another Day with a 26-year-old James Bond), but as a stand-alone entry – as opposed to a pure “sequel” – the film is well-crafted and entertaining enough to forgive a few potholes.

The focus of The Sum of All Fears is one misplaced nuclear warhead, and the path it takes from buried beneath the Israeli desert to its eventual destination in the United States’ East Coast. The U.S. president and most of his advisors believe that the threat comes from a Russian source, but wet-behind-the-ears CIA analyst Jack Ryan seems to know different. Paired up with senior agent Bill Cabot, Ryan promptly learns the high-pressure protocol of military intelligence as his well-researched advice is all but ignored by the powers-that be. Ryan’s suspicions are, of course, right on the money and he is then invited to accompany Cabot on a Russian nuclear inspection. The absence of three Russian scientists supports Ryan’s theories, and the inexperienced desk jockey quickly finds himself locked in a globetrotting search for answers.

When we last saw Jack Ryan, he was played by Harrison Ford. This time around, Ben Affleck has the role, and acquits himself moderately well, delivering a likable character while offering very little in actual screen presence. (To say Ben Affleck is at his best in “people” movies is a massive understatement.) Fortunately, Affleck has a stellar supporting cast to fill in the blanks, and the film’s best moments repeatedly come from rapid-fare banter between the various stressed-out analysts, politicians, and advisors.

Although Affleck is front and center in full “hero” mode, The Sum of All Fears is overloaded with superlative character actors. Aside from the ever-reliable Morgan Freeman, the colorful roster also includes James Cromwell (L.A. Confidential) as the U.S. President, Philip Baker Hall (Magnolia) as an intense Defense Secretary, and Bruce McGill (Lawn Dogs) as a National Security Advisor. In a relatively smaller role, Live Schreiber (Scream 3) manages to steal a few scenes as a mysterious operative named John Clark. As Ryan’s fetching fiancée, Bridget Moynahan (Coyote Ugly) is suitably lovable, although she suffers from an underwritten role that all but disappears in the movie’s second half.

The Sum of All Fears feels considerably less generic than its two predecessors, thanks mainly to a deft directorial touch by Phil Alden Robinson. Previously known for smaller flicks like Field of Dreams and Sneakers, Robinson brings a welcome sense of morality (and mortality) to the series, and as a result The Sum of All Fears seems more based in reality than do techno-soap operas like Patriot Games. The key here is not how bombs explode; it’s how these threats affect the characters around them.

The Sum of All Fears may not be an action-packed affair (although there are more than a few solid action sequences), but Robinson manages to infuse a lot of intensity into scenes of political maneuvering, arguments and heated debate. The film is realistic enough to make the few surprises almost painfully effective, and the screenplay adaptation (by Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne) keeps the “dry spots” few and far between.

Though the depressingly timely subject matter may seem a bit too close for comfort, any film deserves to be judged on its own merits and not on the political climates in which it is released. Some may claim that releasing a film like this smacks of ghoulish opportunism, but let’s be fair; the novel was written over ten years ago, and the movie adaptation has been in production for over two years. And The Sum of All Fears is way too well-made to be shelved forever.

It’s understandable that some may want to avoid this kind of fiction altogether, but I’m guessing that The Sum of All Fears will be a big hit. General audiences will seek to quell their fears by living vicariously through terrorist-hunter Jack Ryan, and will appreciate the fact that The Sum of All Fears is (unlike Arnie’s recent terrorist-laden Collateral Damage) a well-made and entertaining affair that packs one hell of a punch.

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originally posted: 05/30/02 15:29:08
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User Comments

1/24/11 JM Synth Deathly Dull. Too dry to be any fun, too silly and thin to be anything substantial 1 stars
1/11/07 Ole Man Bourbon I know that I saw "Sum of All Farts," but I can't remember a single thing about it. 1 stars
2/14/06 R.W.Welch Okay plot and execution though Affleck is no H. Ford. 3 stars
2/13/06 Anthony The Highlight of this film is the credits 1 stars
8/17/05 ES 'Hey let's ruin the upstanding line of Jack Ryan movies by adding Affleck!'= ok! 1 stars
3/25/05 me Being a reader of Clancy, I was severely underwhelmed by this, but the book was merely okay 2 stars
3/22/05 Landshark blows hard, thankfully the young Jack Ryan era is a short one 1 stars
3/16/05 R.W. Welch Somehow this stuff doesn't quite work without H. Ford. 3 stars
2/22/05 Captain Craig A good spy flic. Especially if you like Ben. 4 stars
10/29/04 Theresa Wagner Making Jack Ryan younger was a mistake but it shows where he got his start. It's an ok movi 3 stars
7/06/04 patrick Affleck lousy, thumbs up 4 Freeman,Mcgill 4 stars
5/31/04 Nobody If it weren't for Affleck's terrible acting, might have been good. 2 stars
6/26/03 cochese Unrealistic. I hate Affleck, but I tolerated him in this one. 4 stars
6/23/03 Jim Improves on the book, which was good but meandering 4 stars
6/03/03 spacecowboy The last 15 minutes were absolutely beautiful. 4 stars
3/17/03 G-man last 45 minutes- awsome, but no good in first hour 4 stars
1/17/03 y2mckay mediocre adaptation of the novel, Ben Affleck the weakest link as usual. 2 stars
12/02/02 Elizaveta Good riveting story - puts the Sept. 11 stuff into perspective 4 stars
11/18/02 Spanky what a letdown. never said "yeah right" so much in a movie 2 stars
11/17/02 snowconehead The book it ain't, but at least there was some nazis died 4 stars
10/29/02 Natalie Stonecipher Good overall edge-of-seat thriller; some subplots incomprehensibly contorted. 4 stars
10/08/02 3man Unrealistic and a lame ending. 2 stars
9/28/02 Digi just not thrill enuf 3 stars
9/27/02 John McNew A bit convoluted, but undeniably effective 4 stars
9/09/02 Monster W. Kung Decent storyline, lame "feel good" ending, too much mumbo-jumbo moralizing. 2 stars
9/08/02 viking Tom Clancy's novel was chilling. This borders on the ridiculous 3 stars
8/18/02 mickey The Jews of Hollywood strike again. This film is utter rubbish. 1 stars
8/06/02 sarahfar88 Jurg is right , they had Bush in mind when they wrote the part for Fowler, go read the book 2 stars
8/05/02 Jurg As unbelievable as flying pigs, as politically correct as the Bush-administration. Crap! 1 stars
7/23/02 Bueller At least Morgan Freeman is making better script decisions since "Hard Rain". 3 stars
7/05/02 Jethro Twenty Cornflake Good stuff when the bomb explodes but mostly dull and contrived. 3 stars
7/01/02 Darrell A real snoozer with very little action. This one will be out on video REAL soon! 1 stars
7/01/02 Michael The explosion scene is awesome!! Ben Affleck and Morgan Freemen were great together. 4 stars
6/29/02 robsv Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan... What's next? Matt Damon as Indiana Jones? 1 stars
6/27/02 Girl 9 Only TWO HOURS TOO LONG!! Only a bit better than crappy. 3 stars
6/22/02 Stephen Hubbard One of the worst scripts I've ever had to sit through. I actually walked out be4 the end! 1 stars
6/22/02 Kever This movie is a fucking can of cat piss. 1 stars
6/14/02 spaceworm Cigarette machines? In a stadium? Since when? 4 stars
6/14/02 TJ Good action flick, but much unbelievable BS. Survive shock of nuclear blast?! 3 stars
6/13/02 frosty Del, you're retarded. Look up the definition of terrorist. 4 stars
6/13/02 Del Give me a break... the real terrorists aren't Neo-Nazis... what bullshit 1 stars
6/13/02 Andy Propaganda bullshit but an ok flick… Nice cinematography. 3 stars
6/13/02 bob Better than some other recent movies 4 stars
6/12/02 FrayLo it's a political thriller, so don't go expecting bond style action 4 stars
6/11/02 Obi Wan Another fine Clancy showing!! I would like to see a movie on Clark w/Schreiber! 5 stars
6/09/02 Jason Taylor This movie rocks! You clowns are doing a relative comparison instead of an absolute one! 5 stars
6/08/02 Viper First half was good, the plot really builds up, then falls apart in the second half. 4 stars
6/07/02 I/O Error Besides from Affleck's less than phenomenal performance, well worth watching. 4 stars
6/07/02 Kyle Here's a nice piece of shit! 1 stars
6/05/02 Todd Pollard Well made adventure 5 stars
6/05/02 Mortis Good if not better than HRO - Looks like the Affleck haters are jealous-poor ugly guys 4 stars
6/05/02 cleansparks I could have done without the pointless romance, but otherwise well done 4 stars
6/04/02 Nick2k alright. not intense like the other. what's with the chronology of these movies though? 3 stars
6/04/02 David A. Intelligent espionage movie. The most exciting part is the depiction of a nuclear explosion 4 stars
6/04/02 Film Dude I refuse to see another Ben Affleck movie as long as I live. Pearl Harbor, now this... 1 stars
6/04/02 Film Guy Messy movie. Ben affleck what where you thinking 1 stars
6/04/02 Blackops does not follow the book, and its Ben Affleck, need i say more. 2 stars
6/04/02 Brad Moynahan Fantastic 5 stars
6/03/02 strider3700 I've seen far worse shit this year. Affleck doesn't even completely suck like normal 4 stars
6/01/02 Kriperace Why did the ragheads get turned into neo-Nazis? 3 stars
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  31-May-2002 (PG-13)



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