The Sum of All Fears

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/08/2002

Two out of five stars
Running time: 124 mins

Annoying, over-earnest thriller that's a lot sillier than it thinks it is - if the plot inconsistencies don't get to you, then Affleck's 'serious' acting will.

If the idea of a CIA Agent called Jack Ryan seems familiar, then you're either a fan of Tom Clancy's novels, or you saw Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger or The Hunt For Red October, in which the role was played by both Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin.

In those movies, Ryan was a high-ranking CIA Agent, but here he is relegated to 'rookie' status, in order that (ahem) "new blood" might be injected into the franchise. Except that, let's face it, a) Affleck can't really cut it as a serious leading man and b) Jack Ryan isn't that interesting a character anyway.

Ridiculous Tagline

There are several annoying things about The Sum Of All Fears. One of them is the ridiculous tagline: "27,000 Nuclear Weapons. One is missing." Which begs the question, 'So what? You've still got 26,999 left - what are you worried about?'

The plot, then, revolves around the whereabouts of said weapon. A neo-Nazi terrorist has brought a nuclear weapon into America with the aim of tricking the U.S. Government into thinking that the new Russian President has sinister designs on the U.S, nuclear explosion-wise. In time-honoured fashion, Jack is "the only one who knows the truth", but will they listen before it's too late?

Realism is Blown to Smithereens

In fact, the brinksmanship involved in the plot has an unfortunate resonance with Kubrick's classic nuclear satire Doctor Strangelove - it's only a shame that The Sum Of All Fears chooses to take itself so seriously, particularly later on, when all regard for realism is blown to smithereens.

To be fair to the film, it does have a show-stopping moment as its climax, which doesn't deserve to be spoiled here. The problem is that this isn't carried through logically. In fact, given the events of September 11th, it's hard not to speculate on whether or not the film has been cut or altered as a result.

Screw Your Face Up And Shout

The acting is, unfortunately, pretty bland. Morgan Freeman does his usual saintly mentor act and is as watchable as ever, but you can tell his heart isn't really in it. And Affleck never really seems to relax into the role, either - he seems to be playing all his serious scenes as if he's just done a crash-course in the 'Screw your face up and shout a bit' school of acting.

The one interesting note in the film is the role played by Liev Schreiber, an extremely under-used actor, who makes the most of his part as mysterious shadow-agent John Clark.

In short, The Sum Of All Fears is something of a disappointment. It's just about watchable and gains an extra star purely for not being as bad as Bad Company, but you could just as easily wait for it to show up on TV in a couple of years.

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The Sum of All Fears
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Content updated: 15/12/2019 11:39

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