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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 Erik Childress

"More Than A Worthy Entry In The Franchise"
4 stars

The Sum Of All Fears is less a movie than it is a scenario. It’s another chapter in Tom Clancy’s series of Jack Ryan adventures and, at times, feels just like that – another chapter. It occasionally tries to connect the dots between the three other film incarnations of the character, but to little avail. Where it does succeed is sucking us into an apocalyptic chess game that we weren’t expecting in quite the way we were expecting it for this is a frightening thriller that begins like The Tailor of Panama and ends like Fail-Safe.

In true Batman fashion, the franchise has been handed over to its third actor, this time a younger Jack Ryan played by Ben Affleck. Although this story chronologically takes place after the three previous films in Clancy’s books as well as here (the film is set in 2002), the writers have tried to fashion certain events around the age of our new/old hero. For example, Jack is not married, but still dating his surgeon girlfriend, Cathy (Bridget Moynahan). (His wife’s name was Caroline in The Hunt for Red October, which took place in 1984). Young Jack also has his first meeting with CIA operative John Clark (Liev Schreiber) even though according to the film version of Clear and Present Danger, Clark (then played by Willem Dafoe) had his first communicae with Ryan. These are, of course, quibbles from a film lover who hates inconsistencies, especially in a good series and can’t understand how incoming screenwriters neglect such things. (Then again, its still not as bad as the Highlander series.)

On to the film at hand, Ryan is called into more active duty from his work at a government think-tank when the Russian President dies from health problems. Having written a book on the country’s successor much like Capt. Ramius from Red October (“I KNOW him”), Ryan aids in being a consultant to Presidential advisor Bill Cabot (Morgan Freeman) who in true Freeman fashion sets him straight when he’s too eager to speak out of turn. (“When I asked for your advice, I didn’t mean for you to speak.”)

While Ryan and Cabot are inspecting missile dissection in Russia, a lone nuke (left over from the Yom Kippur war of 1973) has already been discovered in the Middle East and sold to a collector (Colm Feore). Buying it at a bargain of $400 with a markup to $50 million, he sells the pricey fixer-upper to a neo-Fascist (Alan Bates) who may or may not have a nefarious plan to restore the Master Race to its former glory.

All these details are carefully laid out to us during the first hour as we await what appears on the horizon to be a race-against-the-clock scenario. What’s in store for us however, once the rug has been pulled out, is a period when we watch the chess pieces involved race against the spaces in-between the seconds within the clock.

Fans of the novels as well as Clancy himself have expressed dismay in the past with the way filmmakers have chopped up the material. That may not change as The Sum Of All Fears was a very dense book (over 1000 pages) and die-hards will recognize the exclusion of Ryan as the current CIA director (changed to reflect his age) as well as Ryan’s peace efforts to include the Vatican and the President’s affair with a loudmouth staff member.

Affleck makes for a serviceable Ryan, if nothing earth-shattering since this film is more about characters in high-ranking professions and how they react to the events thrust upon them. From just a looks standpoint, he works as a young Ryan as you can see how THIS Ryan may grow up a few years to become the Alec Baldwin Ryan of Red October. (Fitting since Affleck’s career connection to Baldwin goes back to his Glengarry Glen Ross-like role in Boiler Room and his shared screen time in Pearl Harbor.)

All the actors in the film are able to hold their own with limited characterizations. (I’d like to see Schreiber take the Clark role for a spin if they finally get around to Clancy’s Clark story, Without Remorse.) The President’s staff is a trip through character actor heaven. With James Cromwell as our Commander-In-Chief, he’s surrounded by Bruce McGill, Ron Rifkin, Philip Baker Hall and the natural standout, one Morgan Freeman. With the screenplay doing its best to add to the Ryan timeline, for the first 45 minutes, I mistook Freeman’s character as a younger version of Ryan’s mentor, James Earl Jones’ Admiral Greer from the first three adventures (which struck me as odd considering that Robinson had worked with Jones on both Field of Dreams AND Sneakers, so why not bring him back?) But that’s neither here nor there, because I was wrong trying to keep up with common threads instead of keeping myself invested in the engrossing unfolding of events.

Jack Ryan aficionados of either the films or the novels may also find themselves taken out of the moment here and there due to the incongruities already mentioned. It always helps the realism of any story to maintain the sense of everyday authenticity by the recognizable artifacts that we may not even think twice about. (For example – the Super Bowl portrayed in the film is Chicago vs. Florida and played in Baltimore, Maryland!) The lack of cooperation on the part of the NFL is not necessarily the fault of the filmmakers as we’ve seen this time and time again. Product placement wages a fine line between outright commercialism and a necessary realism to keep us in the moment, although there’s something to be said about cigarette companies (i.e. Marlboro, etc…) not having any qualms about being associated with nuclear terrorism.

The screenplay could have stretched details of the early parts of the story easily into another 30-40 minutes. But at a lean running time just short of two hours, audiences are likely to be so shaken by the late turn of events that a second viewing will only increase their enjoyment of the clever little details thrown in by writers Paul Attanasio (Donnie Brasco, Quiz Show)and Daniel Pyne (Doc Hollywood)that will be taken for granted upon one’s first consumption. (The use of an “inside” web contact by Freeman was used to similar effect in Attanasio’s screenplay for Michael Crichton’s Disclosure.)

What people will applaud is the way director Phil Alden Robinson is able to set-up the film’s second half with enough precision to shock us, frighten us and have us gripping the theater’s armrests. Robinson’s only two prior theatrical efforts were Field of Dreams and Sneakers, a limited resume to be sure, but two films that any director should be applauded to have on their list. Where he lacks in some kind of contrived style we associate with certain directors, he more than makes up for in tightness of storytelling. The Sum Of All Fears may not have the dizzying complexity of Red October, the revenge-themed techno aspects of Patriot Games or the governmental double-dealings and computer duels of Clear and Present Danger, but this is more than a worthy entry into the franchise.

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originally posted: 05/31/02 09:29:24
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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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