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:: The Sum Of All Fears

This is the prequel to other Jack Ryan films (The Hunt For Red October, patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) and confuses a little with this story showing the young man just starting out at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and having the scenario fixed in to current day 2002. So, is this a time warp? It’s best to just think about the compelling drama that ensues.

Ben Affleck becomes the third actor to take on the Jack Ryan role, following in the footsteps of Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford. He neither looks like an action hero nor has the presence of the other two actors. Yet, The Sum Of All Fears more than survives in spite of this aspect.

The story begins in 1972, during the Yom Kippur War between Isreal, Egypt, and Syria. A single Israeli nuclear bomb is lost in the desert. We move forward to the present day and the bomb is found and sold. The question remains as to which country holds it. We are led to believe that it is the Russians, and that is the thinking of the whole intelligence service, except for one up-and-coming CIA analyst, Jack Ryan. He is firm in his thought that it can’t be the Russians because he has done extensive research of their leader Nemerov (Ciaran Hinds), Ryan is called in by CIA director Cabot (Morgan Freeman), after a new attack in Chechnya, to give his opinion on Nemerov’s motivation and response, and to accompany Cabot to meet Nemerov in Moscow.

Meanwhile, another plot has been placed. Right-wing extremists, led by Dressler (Alan Bates), an Austrian businessman, have purchas3ed the nuclear warhead and, with US traitors, conspire to give the impression that the USA and Russia are attacking each other, hoping to trigger a war from which fascism can reign again. Jack Ryan, a former Marine, has no urge to become a field agent, yet is partnered with super spy John Clark (Live Schreiber) to try and find the truth.

It’s not hard to find reflections of this film in the real world, particularly in light of the September 11, 2001 tragedy. Think of the sequences in this film – the attack, the intelligence agencies seemingly helpless to stop it, and the one lone voice of an unheralded analyst who tries to save the day. Considering the events of last year it’s eerie to note that The Sum Of All Fears went into production before that fateful day, yet the magnitude of the events in the story will mean more than it would have had a year ago. It all looks credible.

There are some interesting characters. Ben Affleck doesn’t seem the right type to play Ryan, but he has a certain self-conscious charm and cynicism. He delivers a likeable voice of reason in a situation where cool heads often fail to prevail. Morgan Freeman and Live Schreiber are given cool, dignified roles while James Cromwell, as the US President, gives a powerful performance in that we feel his anger and nervousness. Bridget Moynahan is the woman in Jack Ryan’s life. She is a nurse, living her own life and not just following his actions. She does a fine job as the understated love interest. The rogue Russian generals, neo-Nazis, conclusion-jumping American military leaders and all the gadgets that accompany them surround the main characters.

The film succeeds as an interesting, classic conspiracy theory thriller in providing enough shocks and surprises to keep us guessing, and moves at a good pace in never letting up on the suspense until the very end. It is intelligent in being a gripping portrayal of a world in which we now exist. We may well see novelist Tom Clancy bringing us more adventures of the young Jack Ryan.

Screening on general release