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The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Another Near-Perfect Transition of a Clancy Book-to-Film
When I discovered after quite a number of years another Tom Clancy novel of political and international intrigue had made its way to the big screen, I was ecstatic, in no small measure by the fact "The Sum of All Fears" was one of my most favorite by Clancy. The book was fast-paced and held my attention raptly through its five-hundred-odd pages from start to finish. Naturally, I wanted to see how the movie compared to the book, so off I went.
The movie's first few minutes followed the book's events letter-perfect. However, I expected there would be some major changed, given the great political upheavals that had occurred in the world since the novel's initial release. For one thing (and no small thing), events in the book set in certain Cold War-Era hotspots, such as Berlin, were no longer viable. The fall of the Soviet Union did leave some pretty significant plot holes for the movie to fill in light of the book. I think they did so nicely, up to, and including the ironic (and darkly-humorous) placement of a major "plot device" in the movie. Overall, I think the basic tone of the novel was captured on-film and done well, like the earlier efforts of "Hunt for Red October", "Patriot Games", and "Clear and Present Danger".
My principle grievance with the film makers was with the handling of the story's principle protagonist, Jack Ryan. Played adequately (but by no means memorably) by Ben Affleck, he was portrayed in the movie as being very young, "green" and somewhat unsure and cocksure at the same time; quite a letdown from Harrison Ford's forrays as Ryan in the previous two films. In the novel, however, Jack Ryan was much older and experienced in his position in the CIA (as "Sum" is further down the timeline than the previous two films' novel bases). It's clear the moviemaker's intent was to attract a younger audience to the movie by casting Affleck, but it was a significant turn from the novel's version of events by making Ryan the "action hero" of the story. Other than that, the movie stands quite well on its own for those who never read the book.
Good performances by Morgan Freeman and James Cromwell also made the movie worth a look, and a rental or two. Overall I thought this movie the most satisfying of the year and one of the very few to live up to the billing in the light of the other so-called blockbuster let-downs of the summer.
I look foreward to more Clancy Novels being brought to the big screen at least as competently as this one.