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I read the book "The Sum of All Fears" with fascination--Palestenians
discover an Isreali nuclear device lost when the aircraft is shot down in
the six day war, sell it to Al Queda, and the arab terrorists proceed to
blow up Denver with said nuke.
I was very much looking forward to this movie, only to find that for fear of offending Al Queda, the director and screenwriters had substituted some ridiculous plot about German Nazi's and turned the whole thing into a melodramatic hash.
This could have been a GREAT, prophetic, movie. instead it became a silly waste of money and talent. I know Tom Clancy hated the movie, so did I.
"The Sum of All Fears" is the latest film in the Jack Ryan series as
written by Tom Clancy. In the previous films, Ryan was presented as a family
man and played by Alex Baldwin and Harrison Ford. This time around we are
asked to accept a Ryan who is 25 years younger (Ben Affleck), unmarried and
a nerdy, wet behind the ears CIA historian. The age difference would have
been more believable had the film been set in 1973, when the story begins,
rather than the present.
Anyway, the story is about a disgruntled ex-Nazi, Dressler (Alan Bates) who acquires a nuclear device and plans to instigate a war between the USA and Russia and then take over when the super powers destroy each other. The new Russian President, Nemerov (Ciaran Hinds) is set up by Dressler to be blamed for a nuculear attack which wipes out a large part of Baltimore. U.S. President Fowler (James Cromwell) calls in the CIA headed by William Cabot (Morgan Freeman).
Cabot enlists the aide of historian Jack Ryan (Affleck) because Ryan has done a thorough study on Nemerov. Ryan believes the Russian to be innocent even though all around him believe him guilty. As each side prepares to launch their respective missles, Ryan and CIA Operative John Clark (Liev Schrieber) are busily gathering information and Ryan is racing against the clock to convince Fowler of Nemenov's innocence.
Affleck tries his best to make us forget Harrison Ford but to no avail. He simply cannot be taken seriously as the man who holds the world's fate in his hands. Freeman is excellent as always and Cromwell and Hinds stand out as the two world leaders. Bates makes a nasty villain and Schrieber is good as the mysterious man with a past, Clark. Bridget Moynahan appears as Affleck's love interest and future wife.
The real star of the picture are the special effects. The nuclear explosion is realistic and believable and the attack on the aircraft carrier is equally good.
I hope that in the next Jack Ryan movie, he is portrayed by someone who is at least old enough to shave.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let me preface my comments by saying that I loved Clancy's book when I
read it ten years ago. It was a gripping page-turner, and a marvelously
intricate work, building suspense in layers. I've since re-read it several
I realistically expected that elements of the massive tome would have to be changed or condensed for the screen version. But so much is changed, and so many critical elements removed, that it hardly resembles its novel origins. As a result I find it difficult to believe that Tom Clancy had much creative control over this effort, though he's credited as "Executive Producer".
First, for some inexplicable reason, this movie jumps away from previous Clancy continuity by completely revamping the character of Jack Ryan. Rather than a middle aged CIA administrator, Ryan is now a young handsome PhD with little Washington experience. Apparently this is to boost the "chick-flick" quotient of this outing, as it adds nothing tangible to the film, and only detracts from the continuity that had been built to this point. There's even a scene where Kathy is asked how "cute" Ryan is on a 1-10 scale, and she says a "12". Ugh! They had time to include this garbage, yet skip vital character development later in the film?
Yet, even worse, this Ryan is the Uber-Ryan. Yes, the man is everywhere, and involved in virtually every action sequence in the film. He finds the bomb lab in Russia (and saves Clark, CLARK, for crying out loud, shouldn't it be the OTHER way around???), races to Baltimore in a helicopter to warn President Fowler(who in yet another huge change is caught in the blast himself) he gets caught in the nuclear blast(and hardly gets his hair mussed, how cliche!), he personally sifts through the rubble of Baltimore for evidence (another inexplicable change, as Denver was the city nuked in the book, then goes on for a cliched confrontation with the terrorists (who are VERY poorly developed character-wise, totally unlike the book) mano y mano in a darkened Baltimore warehouse. Oh, and I almost forgot, there was the obligatory (and oh so overused) Hollywood "death" scene where Ryan (again, Ryan personally) kneels at the bed of Morgan Freeman as he expires in a "tearful" sequence. Yes, it was painful but not in the way intended.
I thought Clancy's books sometimes stretched the believablity of Ryan's capabilities to the breaking point, yet this goes way beyond anything Clancy has previously done. It's Super-Ryan to the rescue, more 007 than distinguished, cerebral CIA analyst, even though he supposedly had little if any experience in espionage, forensics, or any of that. It is very cliched, and very tiresome to watch, at least for anyone that's actually read the books.
One of the best parts of the novel was the realism. Reading it, you really believed that the plot Clancy put in motion could occur. Not this movie. Believable Islamic terrorists were replaced with cartoonish middle-aged white european neo-Nazis who make stock Hitler-loving speeches that any avid movie-goer has heard a million times before. Dr. Evil would love these guys. They even got to kill one of their own rank, ala Dr. Evil, after he experienced the convenient cinematic "crisis of concience". You could see it coming a mile away! I guess that's so we can understand these men are serious and mean "business"
Oh and on the subject of business, since the typical european Neo-Nazi is young, skinheaded, devoted, but not terribly affluent these Nazis were conveniently well-to-do businessmen with the financial assets and experience to put their scheme in motion. Is this Tom Clancy or James Bond? I guess its not "politically correct" to feature the actual type of real world Middle Eastern "gentlemen", with the aid of foreign government sponsorship who even now are striving, again in reality, to make weapons of mass destruction to use against us? I guess its always "safe" to once again bash caucasian conservative-appearing men in business suits. Whatever the reason, its another major plot element from the book down the tubes.
On the subject of the bomb; there was a great deal of detail in the book about the bomb that was completely overlooked in the movie. For example, in the book, the bomb was originally intended to be a multi-stage, ie, HYDROGEN bomb. It fizzled. The original yield was overestimated by twenty fold by military analysts because of reflection of the snow, and other factors. The President's advisors didn't think terrorists could build a multi-stage weapon, thus the suspicion was immediately upon the Russians. It was only after frantic detective work that the true yield of the bomb was discovered, and it put Ryan on the proper track AND gave him leverage to help defuse the situation(no pun intended). It's a common worry that terrorist groups might get ahold of a low yield fission "suitcase" bombs, yet right from the start in the movie no one, including the President, suspects terrorists!
Another fond memory I have of the book is that Clancy took us to the very brink of Armageddon where the US and Russia were nearly in a shooting war because of the misinterpreted size of the bomb, and the tank battle that the German terrorists cause to happen in Berlin. Yet here, the Russians attack and virtually destroy a US nuclear carrier, we bomb a Russian airbase, and we're still standing at that brink. Somehow, I think if events got that far, there'd be no turning back. Clancy seemed to know that when he wrote the book; he seems to have forgotten it here though.
These are just a few of the major problems with this film. The pacing is bad; one minute the bomb is still being constructed, and a few minutes later its already placed in Baltimore and about to explode, with the cliche of Ryan hot on the trail, trying to warn the President. In the book, the bomb catches everyone completely off-guard, but not here, ANOTHER irritating change. There is also very little character development, the President's motivations are poorly understood, the paranoia of Fowler over the new Russian President's motives was poorly developed, etc etc.
Avoid it if you can. I turned the last 5 minutes off, it was so bad.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, I enjoyed the movie. But I also have read the book several times,
and the comparisons are inevitable, as several other people have done.
I just don't see the point of the most obvious changes from the novel : why using a Neo Nazi fanatic instead of Middle East terrorists? why a very young and single Jack Ryan instead of a married and older character? (Harrison Ford would have been terrific again) Of course a scene aboard Air Force One is more eye candy that a President trapped on Camp David because of a storm and a damaged helicopter. And : where is Ding Chavez??? A character from "Clear and Present Danger", is almost adopted by John Clark after being rescued, and they work as partners.
Some gaps on the story are too difficult to accept : you mean that the ONLY person able to communicate that the bomb was not Russian, is a obscure junior CIA adviser? what about all the agencies and personnel deployed on the explosion site? are they all mute? (On the book, Ryan passes the information but he is not believed by a hostile President and his Nac.Sec. Adviser, *and* a possible power struggle on the Russian government is completely left out).And how come that you can link without any problem from a Palm in the middle of a burned city?
This is a ridiculous movie. First the casting of Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan just doesn't make sense, chronologically (he's already been played by the much older Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin) or physically Affleck just isn't commanding enough for the role. Secondly the movie is simply capitalizing on North America's new found fear of terrorism on home turf, and thirdly the screenwriter Paul Attanasio took huge liberties with the Tom Clancy novel, including, in a stroke of misguided political correctness, changing the bad guys from Middle Eastern to Nazis. Of course everyone hates Nazis, so the filmmakers are not going to offend anyone (Hollywood finds it so hard to get good hateful villains now that Russia is no longer communist) but are we to believe that there is a worldwide conspiracy by super-rich and powerful Nazis to pit two world powers against one another? And how, after the blast (yes, there is a huge atomic explosion), does Ben Affleck piece together this entire conspiracy using only a cell phone and a palm pilot? I'm willing to suspend disbelief in most movies, but this movie has holes big enough to fly a jet through.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film was a far cry from the book by Tom Clancy, who wrote about Al
Queda terrorists reading a set off a nuclear bomb in America. The
latter must have been sick watching this movie and typically-Left Wing
Hollywood changed the script to being one with Nazis as the villains
Are you kidding me? How ridiculously politically correct is that? If I had known this beforehand, I would have boycotted this insulting movie, instead of wasting money on it.
Also, at least to me, Harrison Ford will always be "Jack Ryan," not some second-rate pretty- boy actor like Ben Affleck.
The only redeeming qualities to this film were the nice cinematography and the awesome sound when the big bomb went off. If you have a surround sound, that scene will rock your room. Too bad, they didn't blow up this film before it was released.
Final Score: 4.0 (out of 10)
The movie adaptation of Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears" might be a starkly frightening movie, could be a cautionary tale of homeland terrorism and nuclear war - that is, if it wasn't caught in the confounding cinematic time-warp it finds itself in. It is primarily set after the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the nuclear arms race with the Russians, however it's also a prequel with a younger, cocky Jack Ryan (plug-in flavor of the month Ben Affleck) and with the principle villains being Nazis. This movie will probably be remembered more for it's unfortunate post-9/11 release date (which gave it a sense of importance) then the silly story and content. It's not even so much that the Nazis-as-bad-guys thing is an overused, now out of date cliche as much as the idea that they were Middle Eastern terrorists in Clancy's book and the writers and director Phil Robinson changed them smacks of pure political correctness. Nobody wants to offend the terrorists. As a result the movie feels phony. And that's a big problem because we feel detached from it and, thus, don't feel it is as sharp, timely and intense as Clancy meant it to be. The reason that movies like "Fail Safe" and "Dr. Strangelove" were so brilliant is because they were gutsy enough to take on the public's fears directly. This movie isn't, in fact, it goes out of it's way to hide in it's phony world from doing anything gutsy. All movie villains have to be white Anglo Saxon Europeans most likely with `sinister' Russian or German accents. This type of stuff might frighten liberal Hollywood types who think the president might drop nukes at any moment, but it's not going to resonate with most people.
It also doesn't help that we can't connect with the characters. Affleck does a fine job or running around yelling, but there isn't a lot of development in the young Ryan or in any character we meet. Robinson's direction is purely rudimentary. The whole thing has the feel of a clumsy TV movie. It's race-against-the-clock gives us no real payoff. There is exactly one really good scene here involving Morgan Freeman, a cell phone and a stadium full of people. It also has one interesting little monologue about how the internet and technology has connected terrorism globally like never before. But without any characters, eye-candy action or resonating story we're left pondering why we wasted our time on this thing.
Alternate viewing recommendation: "24 - Season 2". Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer runs circles around Ryan in generally the same plot only more intense, frighteningly timely and on a more epic scale.
I didn't notice who was responsible for casting, but they made a huge mistake in casting Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan. I heard about him inheriting the role from Harrison Ford for some reason, but my first choice would have been to go back to Alec Baldwin, who did an excellent job in the Hunt for Red October. Morgan Freeman, usually brilliant, also seems to be thrown into this movie incorrectly. The story was convincing, but again star power doesn't necessarily translate into great story telling. Let Ben continue to do the romantic comedies and action movies, but leave the strong serial characters to someone who can truly embody the role.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Sum of All Fears," based on the # 1 New York Times bestselling novel
by Tom Clancy, features Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan, a historian who somehow or
another, by writing a paper on the new Russian leader, is spotted by the CIA
Deputy Director (Morgan Freeman).
"The Sum of All Fears" is even more powerful in this day and age, but nevertheless, it stands nowhere near as great as the novel, which is usually the case with films taken from books. In the following I will point out some differences that weren't crucial to my opinion on the film, but just interesting.
The film is a prequel to the other Jack Ryan films, while the novel was a sequel to the other books. In the book, a lost Israeli nuclear warhead is picked up by Arabs some twenty years after the war it was lost in. In the film, a modern-age Hitler is attempting to begin turmoil between Russia and the U.S. with the nuke -- there are no arabs. Also in the novel, the way the bomb was sneaked into the superbowl was much more interesting than the method they used in the film. Also, in the book, Morgan Freeman's character was a dumb man who hid throughout the novel. In the film he's a hero.
There's countless other things that don't really matter, but still made me a bit disappointed in the film.
The film was in no way awful, and is the best Tom Clancy movie to date, but it's still not as good as the book.
3.5/5 stars --
As usual, I am very glad I saw the movie BEFORE I read the reviews on this site. Why do soooo many reviewers here have to compare the movie to the book? A book allows 300-400 pages (or more) to develop plots and characters. We are reviewing movies on IMDb, not books. I guess reviewers here want to appear erudite by scraping up details from the book that get omitted or distorted on the screen. I am a very active reader, but I simply cannot read every book that makes it to the movie theatres. Writing a book (a fairly isolated event) is a significantly different event than producing a movie which involves countless people and issues: screenwriters, actors, writers, directors, production people, locations, etc., etc. Making all these book to movie comparisons isn't fair to the movie or the book. Many times I just want to watch a movie and judge it on its merits alone - as a movie, period. I did not read this book, but I watched the movie and found it very entertaining and extremely absorbing.
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