The Sum Of All Fears

The Sum Of All Fears


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

First there was Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red October. Afraid of being typecast, he passed the baton to Harrison Ford for Patriot Games and Clear & Present Danger. Now it's Ben Affleck's turn.

Tom Clancy's CIA agent Jack Ryan has been well represented on screen, with Ford winning hands down. Baldwin should have stayed to give the character continuity, but maybe his confrontation with Sean Connery, as a renegade Russian submarine captain, proved too tough and so he left when he was behind.

Copy picture

Affleck is an acquired taste. He appears to have come out of nowhere (Chasing Amy, Good Will Hunting) to become a bigger star than his old buddy Matt Damon. It is difficult to comprehend, because he doesn't act so much as wander through movies being himself. Admittedly, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor were not designed as thesp tests. Neither is The Sum Of All Fears.

Ryan is a new boy at the agency in this prequel. His boss, Cabot (Morgan Freeman), makes the decisions, being suitably diplomatic, inscrutable and all-knowing. Except he's not, because Ryan has specialist knowledge of the Kremlin's hierarchy and when an escalating series of aggressive actions take place, he can question the validity of the Russian leader's compliance. "When I asked for your advice," Cabot says. "I didn't mean that you should actually speak." That's a joke, by the way.

The plot is asinine and confusing. Credibility levels are low and character development a non-starter. The White House, under Republican President Fowler (Babe's Farmer Hoggett, James Cromwell), doesn't have a clue what it's doing, as the dreaded red button looms ever closer. The scriptwriters should have stolen a leaf from The West Wing's book and injected some humanity, even humour, into the proceedings. What you have here are small men with weathered faces saying nothing seriously to a very tall man who tries to look as if he knows what day it is.

An ex-Nazi (Alan Bates in gushing form) has an idea. If Russia and America destroy each other with weapons of obscene power, Europe will take over what's left under strict Hitlerian principals. He orchestrates attacks that appear to have come from one or other of the superpowers and waits in Vienna for the response. Only Ryan, it seems, as an underling in the CIA's surveillance interpretation department, can change the course of Doomsday.

Money has been spent on this movie, which means that when a US aircraft carrier is fired on by Ruskie fighter bombers, it doesn't look like a model in a bath. The effects are state-of-the-art. All the actors have to do is stand in front of them, faking fear.

Has Clancy lost his edge? Or gone over it? The young Jack is not a patch on the old Ryan, that's for sure.

Reviewed on: 15 Aug 2002
Share this with others on...
The Sum Of All Fears packshot
Another case for Jack Ryan.
Amazon link

Director: Phil Alden Robinson

Writer: Paul Attanasio, Daniel Pyne, based on the novel by Tom Clancy

Starring: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Bates, Ciaran Hinds, Philip Baker Hall, Ron Rifkin

Year: 2002

Runtime: 132 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database: