The Sum of All Fears

| June 8, 2002

The promotional tag line implying that the Russians have 27,000 nuclear missiles and that one is missing makes you start a little behind in the race to keep up with the ever-changing story line in the latest Tom Clancy novel to come to the screen: The Sum of All Fears.
I don’t think I will let anything go by telling you to ignore the ads and just go with the movie which shows you that a long forgotten bomb from the Middle East is on it’s way to the United States. The Sum of All Fears is the 4th installment of films which follow the Tom Clancy character Jack Ryan, beginning with one of my all time favorites: The Hunt For Red October (“Some of the things in this room don’t respond well to bullets.”) It isn’t necessary to have read the Clancy novels to enjoy the movies which have made their way to the screen, in fact, I picked up reading the series starting with the next one in the series, Without Remorse. I look forward to finally being up with the story line because each of these movies comes from a paperback novel, which is between 800 to 1100 pages so you lose “a little” of the details.
Knowing that there were probably 5 other story lines going on which did not make it to the screen, I felt that I was more forgiving of any holes I thought might be in the plot of the movie…. Or I guess I was adding details in that were probably in the book. That being said, Sum of All Fears is a wonderful story of how a low-level CIA information officer becomes the most important cog in stopping a full blown nuclear war between Russia and America.
There are some inconsistencies between the movies. In The Sum of All Fears, Ben Affleck takes over the part of Jack Ryan. Kind of a switch from Harrison Ford, who played Ryan in the last two movies (Alec Baldwin played the role in Red October). I feel like he has jumped back and forth in age. And in marital status, as well. In the last two movies, Ryan is married. In The Sum of All Fears, Ryan and his wife of the future are just dating. I must say, that in reading the books, I have placed Ford in my mind. Another character, CIA Agent John Clark, makes the same older to younger age jump. In a previous incarnation, Willem DaFoe played the part compared to the much younger Liev Schreiber (Kate & Leopold, RKO 281) in The Sum of All Fears. All that being said, let me add this here to all the Clancy-philes: Yes, I have read your web sites. Yes, I understand that you put different Clancy books in a time line that differs from the published order. Here is my retort: I can only assume that to it is proper to deal with them in the published order. Clancy has not, to my knowledge, come out like George Lucas and told us that certain books are prequels to others; so don’t bother sending your emails. It just isn’t that important in order to enjoy The Sum of All Fears, which is a kick-ass movie.
Regardless of who played the parts, the story probably would have moved along nicely – a tribute to the material. Affleck, though not as good a Ryan as Ford, did a good job. Morgan Freeman (High Crimes, Se7en), is….. just a joy to watch. He has such an amazing presence it is rarely matched. Another veteran in the cast is James Cromwell as President (of the United States) Fowler. My problem with Cromwell being cast as a “good guy” is that I have seen him as the bad guy so many times (Space Cowboys, The Green Mile, RKO 281, The Generals Daughter, LA Confidential) that I have a hard time seeing him as anything but an a-hole. His support staff includes long time actors Philip Baker Hall and Bruce McGill, who I have seen so often lately that, especially in Hall’s case, I only saw them as actors, not characters in the movie. Hall was just in Path to War, The Contender, and Rules of Engagement – all the same type of part. The same goes for McGill who was in Path to War, Wolf Lake and Exit Wounds. There they are, advising the guy in charge. The Sum of All Fears is one in a series of great movies which have begun as words put down on paper by Tom Clancy. If you enjoyed the others, you will absolutely not be disappointed with this newest incarnation.

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