I'm kind of off Tom Clancy now. I read all of his books until the last one. Then, I just couldn't stand Jack Ryan and the fact that he is somewhere to the right of Atilla the Hun anymore. But the movies take the edge off Clancy's politics and leave the action which is what he is good at. The Sum of All Fears is the 4th book in the Jack Ryan series to be filmed. In this installment, we have Ben Affleck as Ryan trying to track (unsuccessfully) and stop (unsuccessfully) some terrorists (Alan Bates & Colm Feore), from blowing up the Super Bowl in Baltimore. He does manage, with the help of his boss at the CIA (Morgan Freeman), to save the POTUS (James Cromwell), prevent war with Russia, and then wreak revenge with the help of the shadowy operative, Mr. Clark (Liev Schreiber).
The most confusing thing if you watched the other Tom Clancy movies is the strange changes of actors and their ages from movie to movie. First, we had The Hunt for Red October (1990) starring Alec Baldwin (age 32) followed by Patriot Games (1992) starring Harrison Ford (age 50) and Clear and Present Danger (1994) again starring Harrison Ford (age 52). Now we have The Sum of all Fears (2002) starring Ben Affleck (age 30). It doesn't end there. Ryan's wife/girlfriend has been played by Gates McFadden (age 41), Anne Archer (ages 45 and 47), and now Bridget Moynahan (age 30). Even Mr. Clark has changed. In Clear and Present Danger, he was played by Willem Dafoe (age 39) and in The Sum of All Fears he is being played by Liev Schreiber (age 35).
This is by far the weakest of the four Clancy movies. The Hunt for Red October, starring Sean Connery and Sam Neill, is really good. And Harrison Ford makes the second and third installments watchable. In The Sum of All Fears, the cast is so good that they almost save the movie. Freeman and Cromwell are so good that like my perennial favorite Anthony Hopkins, they could read from the phone book and make it sound good. This is a good thing because the script from The Sum of all Fears isn't much better that the phone book. Tom Clancy not famous for his dialog and characters. Ben Affleck does a pretty good job particularly in his scenes with his boss (Freeman) and with his girlfriend (Moynahan). She thinks he is an historian and can't understand why he is always being called away on national emergencies. Schreiber is excellent as Mr. Clark. Maybe he will get to star when the later Clancy books, which feature his character, are filmed. The bad guys are the worst kind of eurotrash neo-nazis. Feore and Bates do their best to appear menacing.
The plot is as easy to follow
as it is ludicrous. The most surprising thing is the nuclear blast,
not that it happens, but that it happens less than halfway through the
movie. I started wondering how they were going to fill up the time.
Then I found out. The high point is when Affleck convinces a general
at the Pentagon to allow him to use the hotline to Moscow which is, of
course, reserved only for the POTUS
. When the POTUS
orders that he be stopped, the marine with the gun says, ``Step away from
the keyboard." The terrorists in the movie are trying to get Russia
and the USA to go to war so that they can pick up the pieces later.
So much has changed so fast in the world that The Sum of All Fears
feels very dated already.