When the president of Russia suddenly dies, a man whose politics are virtually unknown succeeds him. The change in political leaders sparks paranoia among American CIA officials, so CIA director Bill Cabot recruits a young analyst to supply insight and advice on the situation. Then the unthinkable happens: a nuclear bomb explodes in a U.S. city, and America is quick to blame the Russians.
Let's see. Who else has 27,000 nukes for us to worry about?
The Sum of All Fears is directed by Phil Alden Robinson and adapted to screenplay by Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne from the novel of the same name written by Tom Clancy. It stars Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Ciaran Hinds, Liev Schreiber, Bridget Moynahan and Michael Byrne. Music is scored by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by John Lindley.
Film is the fourth film to feature the character Jack Ryan (Affleck). It is set in present day 2002 but with Ryan younger than in the other films and at the start of his career in the CIA. Plot is Cold War themed and finds America in a sweat when it is found that renegade terrorists have a nuclear weapon in their possession; just as a new supposed radical president takes up office in Russia.
Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's futures, and we are all mortal.
2002 saw two great thrillers released that starred Ben Affleck, one was Changing Lanes, the other was this Jack Ryan based effort that attempted to reboot the series. Coming a year after the September 11 attacks and featuring a plot involving terrorists using a bomb that America supplied the Israelis in the 70s during the Yom Kippur War, it was material too close to the bone for some critics. Yet the film did well at the box office in the States and including Worldwide takings it garnered well over $100 million in profit. Impressive figures considering it's not an action blockbuster, it relies on brain over brawn and leading man Affleck was on the back of Pearl Harbor and bearing the brunt of critical scorn.
Each day we lose a little bit more of our separate, sovereign ability to determine our own futures... and each day the world comes a little bit closer to that terrible moment when the beating of a butterfly's wings unleashes a hurricane God himself cannot stop.
Comforted by the superb cast around him, which also includes the likes of Colm Feore, Phillip Baker Hall and Alan Bates in support slots, Affleck proves perfect for the material to hand. Without doubt he's no Harrison Ford, in the same way Moynahan is no Anne Archer, tough boots to fill in the roles of Jack and Cathy Ryan respectively, but in a re-jig of Ryan the character, we now have the arrogance of youth dressed up in slacks and t-shirt, a smart brained youngster beginning his CIA career at a perilous time, a time that thankfully is devoid of jingoistic flag waving, but of adult political sensibilities. Affleck's Ryan as a character is as refreshing as the writers' responsible attitude is.
You dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. You dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. Do not lecture me on Chechnya!
With shades of the Cuban Missile Crisis and a Fail-Safe like finale, The Sum of All Fears rounds out as a nail biter of a thriller. Dig deeper and some implausibilities surface, but we are asked to tune into the paranoia and get in deep with the characters trying to avert global catastrophe, to decry the film's cerebral thriller qualities is churlish. The Jack Ryan parts of the film involving Cathy the girlfriend are the least interesting, but here's the thing, young Jack Ryan is just one of the components making up a far bigger whole. The film isn't solely a Jack Ryan movie. The source novel was a door stopper, so inevitably much as been excised from it, and inevitably fans of the book have been vocal in their displeasure; though we would have needed another hour of film to even get close to Clancy's big block of fiction. So in place is a picture that is uncomplicated in structure and story telling and comes in at under two hours running time. It's credit to director Robinson that The Sum of All Fears engrosses from start to finish.
It was hoped that the reboot would herald the start of a run of more Jack Ryan based movies, but in spite of the great box office, this didn't materialise. But that is in no way any marker to the quality of the film, or its standing in the Jack Ryan series. Judge it on its own merits and ideas and the rewards are many, especially on a second viewing. At the time of writing Jack Ryan will return to the big screen in December 2013, titled simply as Jack Ryan, with another young actor, Chris Pine in the role of Ryan. Undoubtedly that will be high on action, such is the way of drawing in the young dollars at the multiplexes these days. But if it has half the tension and brains of Robinson's picture then we will be blessed. If not? Then there's an even bigger reason to treasure Jack Ryan's 2002 version. 7.5/10
Mel's Cite du Cinema, Paramount, Mace Neufeld Productions, MFP Munich Film Partners GmbH & Company I. Produktions KG, S.O.A.F. Productions by Phil Alden Robinson, Tom Clancy, Paul Attanasio, Daniel Pyne.
Stars: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Ian Mongrain.
Genres: Action, Drama, Thriller
Keywords: spy cia based on novel or book terrorist atomic bomb cold war nuclear explosion jack ryan
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