SUM OF ALL FEARS
A nuclear bomb dropped in a 1973 Middle East conflict lies unexploded for 29 years, and when itís found, it falls into the wrong hands. With a destablised Russia and a nervous America, terrorists who get hold of such a device have the right climate for creating the sum of all our fears. Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck), the young CIA analyst, is enlisted to assist CIA Director Bill Cabot (Morgan Freeman) in tracking down the bitter and twisted gangs who pose the latest and greatest threat to America since the Cold War ended.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Does Ben Affleck succeed Harrison Ford as a great Jack Ryan? Thatís the first big question is your mind, and the answer is Ö not yet. Or nyet, if I was pushed to be brutal Ė and Russian, as is some of the filmís setting and language. But itís not just Ben v Harrison; you may recall that this is the film Phil Noyce walked away from after being unable to reach agreement with Ford on the Ryan character interpretation. In the end, producer Jerry Bruckheimer took on director Phil Alden Robinson and they chose to re-position Jack Ryan as a 28 year old analyst, but in contempo times. Hence Affleck. Not only has this robbed us of any sense of continuity, it also bastardises the franchise, which got off to a good but not brilliant start with Alec Baldwinís Ryan in Hunt for Red October in 1990. But itís the 1992 and 1994 Harrison Ford Ryans in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger that are the high points. Both were directed by Noyce. But the producer of those two films and of this one, is the same Mace Neufeld; Bruckheimer is a new element. Whatever analysis you run of all this, is up to you. My own conclusion is that the nuances inherent in the characterisation of Jack Ryan are crucial to the broad appeal of these films. Sure, itíll score with the undemanding action fans, but Noyce went further and forged two films where the man was as interesting as the action. He propelled our emotions and held our imaginations captive. Itís a combo of story telling skills and respect for your audience. Nuances can add millions of fans to your market by bringing in the grown ups. And longevity. Itís all in the details, and the details here just donít quite add up. The Sum of All Fears will play on yours: the fear of mad and bad terrorists dumping a nuclear bomb somewhere and setting off not only horrific deaths and mutilations but a world war to boot. For a film that tackles this subject, The Sum of All Fears is remarkably fuddled about motives and context, which drains it of the dramatic substance that would shake us in our boots (or cinema seats). It simply serves up another formula picture, slickly packaged and competently made. (And for a big budget Hollywood movie, it boasts an embarrassingly good example of bad make up continuity on Affleckís face wounds.)
Review by Louise Keller:
For me, Harrison Ford was the definitive Jack Ryan, confident, capable and a little crumpled around the edges. So Ben Affleck had to do some living up to expectations before he even started: all in all, he scores pretty well. I do believe, however, that Affleck is one of those actors who will come into his own as he matures, allowing those chiselled handsome looks to be a part of a package, rather than the entirety of it. The challenge for the script writers and filmmakers, in bringing Tom Clancyís 1991 novel to the screen, was to capture Jack Ryan as a young analyst, at a time before he had reached the career heights, allowing our expectations of the older Ryan to remain intact. All in all, that challenge has been met, and The Sum of All Fears is an intelligent and insightful political thriller that presents a horror scenario of what could be if nuclear weapons were to fall in the wrong hands. The power of the film is in the set up, the dialogue and the unthinkable outcome of any such occurrence. Itís a chilling glimpse at a situation, while hypothetical, could well be very close to actuality, with intriguing perceptions, suppositions, summations and as things escalate, reveal implications which are devastatingly unsettling. With its structure of action that flits from Moscow to Baltimore to Haifa to Washington and beyond, fluidity and cohesion gets a little bogged down in dialogue, and the 123 minute running time occasionally feels a little laboured at times. But the filmís heart beats strongly with its strong cast headed by Morgan Freeman and graced by stalwarts like James Cromwell as the American President, Alan Bates and Philip Baker Hall. Itís always a pleasure to see Liev Schreiber on the screen, and here once again, he creates an interesting character filled with credibility. Ciaran Hinds is effective as the enigmatic Russian President, and the scenes showing him in his private quarters with his wife take us by surprise, and one step beyond the Kremlin. Affleck makes an engaging rookie Ryan, filled with initiative and drive, albeit lacking the gravitas of his predecessor. The romance sub-plot is almost gratuitous, but Bridget Moynahan is lovely as the girl of his dreams, and brings some sweet moments. But the filmís most powerful moments are exposed behind the closed doors, when events escalate and there is no longer time to deliberate. These are chilling insights to a scenario that could so easily be real, and we feel all too vulnerable. A thinking manís action film, The Sum of All Fears voices our concerns for the terror that so easily could result.
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SUM OF ALL FEARS (M)
CAST: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber, Alan Bates, Philip Baker Hall, Ron Rifkin, Bruce McGill, Ciaran Hinds, Bridget Moynhan.
PRODUCER: Mace Neufeld
DIRECTOR: Phil Alden Robinson
SCRIPT: Paul Attanasio, Daniel Pyne (novel, Tom Clancy)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Lindley, ACS
EDITOR: Neil Travis ACE
MUSIC: Jerry Goldsmith
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jeannine C. Oppewall
RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 29, 2002
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.