The Sum of All Fears
To say The Sum of All Fears is based on Tom Clancy's novel of the same name is like saying Spider-Man is based on the Electric Company cartoons of
Clancy's 4,000 page tome tells the story of Jack Ryan, older, wiser, heavy with drink, fighting the National Security Director for the President's ear
while dealing with scandals of infidelity damaging his marriage. In the book, Arab terrorists find an atomic bomb and hatch a plot to detonate said
bomb beneath Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado in the middle of the Superbowl. Meanwhile, Jack dives into the midst of some heavy political
intrigue as various players create a power struggle around the President.
The movie tells the story of Jack Ryan, young, hip, single and sexy, no more than a researcher in the beginnings of what could be a glorious career in
the CIA. In the film, right wing fascists acquire an atomic bomb with plans to detonate said bomb in Baltimore's football stadium in the middle of
the Superbowl. Meanwhile, Jack looks concerned a lot and
plays with other people's Palm Pilots.
So it's similar, yet completely different. Kinda like The Scorpion King and The Mummy Returns, without a professional wrestler.
The book is, by many accounts, Tom Clancy's finest--riveting, terrifying, engrossing. And while Jack Ryan is now thirty years younger and most of
the political subplots have been altered or eliminated, the movie still kept the most dramatic part of the book: the ending. And by ending, I mean
the last 150 or so pages of the book, the last 45 minutes or so of the movie. I'm talking about the "don't you dare leave your seat for some popcorn
or a Coke because this is what political and military drama is all about" ending. Good stuff.
First question that has to come up is: how does Ben Affleck compare to the previous incarnations of Jack Ryan, Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford? Well,
he's a lot younger than they are. When everyone walks around calling him Doctor, you kinda feel like they're talking about the 'examinations' he gave
the Alpha Phi Sorority girls at the last kegger.
Still, he's a stud-in-training, and flanked by legitimate studs such as Morgan Freeman and Liev Schreiber who do the important things like talk and
shoot people. Ben's the kind of action hero who's best used as a foil for the aging hero we really came to see. Morgan Freeman is the aging hero
we'd pay to see dictate HTML code.
"Table width equals... one hundred percent. Border equals zero! Cellspacing equals... 2?"
The story is both shocking and palatable. Shocking because, well, there are some images that we're not quite ready to see, and one of them is in this
movie. Palatable because the bad guys are Nazis. Everyone hates the Nazis. Except for the Nazis, of course, and the neo-Nazis, but we don't like
them because they're neo-Nazis and they like the Nazis and
everyone hates the Nazis. Pretty safe villain these days, the Nazis. Actually, they're just about the only safe villain left aside from raving
lunatics and the Huns.
There's a ton of action for those who like a little action in the action movies. But the action serves the story, and not vice versa, which is a nice
change of pace over a film such as, oh I don't know, Attack of the Clones for example. (If you were executing three people in a stadium, wouldn't you
just shoot them instead of letting them kill three big pets? I mean come on, those pets have got handlers who love them!)
The Sum of all Fears is a tight-paced global story of horror and hate and all that sort of good stuff that makes a movie sing. I give it 4 1/8
Babylons. Go ahead and give it whirl if you want, just pay more attention to Morgan Freeman than Ben Affleck and everything'll be fine.
Shocking and palatable? Killing pets? Do I have to start drug testing?
The Sum of All Fears
Directed By: Phil Alden Robinson
Starring: Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Live Schreiber, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Bates, Ciaran Hinds, Philip Baker Hall, Bruce McGill, Ron Rifkin and
Scrubs' Dr. Kelso. OK, Ben Affleck's in it too, but you didn't hear it from me.