"The Sum of All Fears"
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson.
Written by Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne. Based on the
novel by Tom Clancy.
Starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 6/13/02
So, let’s make sure I’m clear here—“The Sum
of All Fears” is actually a prequel to the three previous films with
CIA analyst Jack Ryan...and, Harrison Ford was actually pitched for
this film? Wisely, he turned it down, because it is hard enough
watching Ford fake a Russian accent in the upcoming sub film
The Widowmaker”, let alone playing a 30-year-old adventure hero.
In Ford’s place stands Ben Affleck, who just
last year headed up the disastrous
“Pearl Harbor.” Affleck plays
Ryan as the up-and-coming analyst that he is in the book, and here,
the plot is as politically dense as the other Jack Ryan films. In
“The Sum of All Fears”, Ryan teams up with a CIA mentor (Morgan
Freeman) to figure out why three Russian scientists are missing from
a research facility that produces nuclear missiles. This plot seems
to intersect with the black market sale of a 30-year-old Israeli
nuke to a third party that threatens the American metropolis
Clearly, there is much more to this story
than I am willing to print here. But, once again, Tom Clancy
delivers. Movies rarely present political intrigue like this
anymore, and if you are willing to keep up, “The Sum of All Fears”
keeps the intellect jogging with Ryan’s investigation and real-world
military plotting. Plus, most of the film’s action takes place over
the phone or in political backrooms, not behind the barrel of a
gun. Some of the military actions are shown, but director Phil
Alden Robinson (“Sneakers”, a great film) mostly stays with
information reports or still photographs instead, which makes
staying alert a priority while viewing.
Robinson also gets great work out of a large
collection of character actors. Freeman sticks to his roots as the
Greatest Black Old Guy Mentor of All Time, and while he isn’t as
good as he was in “Se7en” (his defining moment), he is worlds better
than he was in this spring’s
“High Crimes.” James Cromwell, Liev
Schreiber, Ron Rifkin, Philip Baker Hall and others shine in
supporting roles throughout the movie.
But, the bulk of the lifting falls once
again on the Ryan character, and Affleck handles this quite well.
After a string of pretty boy roles, I really think that Affleck is
hitting his stride. His self-deprecating turn in the hilarious
and Silent Bob Strike Back”, his dramatic role in
and now this have all been hits. I used to really not like Affleck,
but it’s funny what being in good movies with strong scripts will do
“The Sum of All Fears” does have a couple of
problems, but nothing too huge. One of the trickier problems is the
time in which the film is set; it is America of 2002, but this is a
prequel! In Bond films (the only comparable book-to-film series,
since lots of folks have played the same guy), you never know how
old he is, and his experience level is always the same; here, Ryan’s
experience is a very important part of the plot.
Other than that, a great film, and with
“Insomnia” provide a couple of options in the adult thriller
Rating: $9.00 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard