The Sum Of All Fears

on May 31, 2002 by Tim Cogshell
   "Twenty-seven thousand nuclear weapons. One is missing." It's the fairly chilling tagline of the most recent adaptation of author Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series, "The Sum of all Fears." Save the occasional nuclear detonation, the movie isn't nearly as chilling as that tag or the title suggests. For that matter, it isn't even always coherent.

   The story begins in 1972, during the Yom Kippur War between Israel, Egypt and Syria. A single Israeli nuke is lost in the desert. Fast-forward 30 years: It's found and sold, but to whom...and for what? The second part of that question is just stupid. As for the first, we are led to believe it's the Russians. The entire intelligence service, under the guidance of CIA director Bill Cabot (Morgan "Steady as a Rock" Freeman), thinks it's the Russians--with the exception of one young CIA historian, who's sure it's not the Russians. It wouldn't be much of a movie if he were wrong, thus eliminating whatever suspense that storyline was supposed to generate.

   Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck in a role previously played by Alec Baldwin in "The Hunt for Red October" and Harrison Ford in "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger") is a bright, soft-spoken, brilliant young up-and-coming CIA analyst on whose shoulders the fate of the world rests. Now, as fans of the series know, Jack Ryan has been everything from a journeyman analyst to a CIA director to the president of the United States in a long and storied career. So how is it possible that in a contemporarily-set film he's 30 years younger, single and just starting out in a career that's already happened? It's ludicrous. As are several plot-points in "The Sum of all Fears." Why, after the previously mentioned nuclear detonation, do the phones near ground zero still work? From trivial discrepancies right through to the miraculous youthfulness of the previously middle-aged protagonist in an otherwise chronologically present-day adventure, the required suspension of disbelief is insurmountable. Starring Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liv Schreiber, Alan Bates and Philip Baker Hall. Directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Written by Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne. Produced by Mace Neufeld. A Paramount release. Action/Thriller/Drama. Rated PG-13 for violence, disaster images and brief strong language. Running time: 119 min

Tags: suspension, journeyman, youth, Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liv Schreiber, Alan Bates, Philip Baker Hall, Phil Alden Robinson, Paul Attanasio, Daniel Pyne, Mace Neufeld, Paramount, Action/Thriller/Drama

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