THE SUM OF ALL FEARS
Review by Gordon Justesen
Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber, Alan Bates, Philip
Baker Hall, Ron Rifkin, Bruce McGill
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: October 29, 2002
are three Russian atomic scientists doing in Ukraine?”
guess, they’re building a bomb.”
Sum of All Fears is one
thriller that will shake up just about anyone who watches it. At the center of
this terrorist thriller is a horrific terrorist attack on American soil. Having
been through the horrors of 9/11, it’s hard not to be scared and shaken up by
a film of this nature. Had this movie been released a few years back, it could
be enjoyed just as a simple popcorn thriller, but its release time is a
significant one, as this movie can easily be depicting what this country has, or
might be, going through soon. At the same time, the movie began production
before the fateful date.
Based on the hugely
popular 1991 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy, the movie stars Ben Affleck
in the role of CIA analyst Jack Ryan, a character that has been portrayed by
both Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red
October and Harrison Ford in Patriot
Games and Clear and Present Danger.
Affleck, of course, is a much younger actor, and even though the original novel
was written long after the aforementioned Clancy novels, the story has been
reinvented as an early stage in Ryan’s career, thus making Affleck a more than
suitable choice for the part.
Ryan is not a
heroic warrior like most CIA agents in the movies; his simply writes reports and
delivers information. His expertise of the newly elected president of Russia
garners the attention of CIA boss Bill Cabot (Morgan Freeman), who then recruits
Ryan to assist him on a visit to a Russian nuclear research facility. During the
visit, Ryan discovers a strange notion; with seventeen scientists supposedly on
duty, he counts only fourteen, meaning three scientists have disappeared. With
his suspicions rising, Cabot assigns agency operative John Clark (Liev Schrieber)
to locate the missing scientists.
We soon learn that
the missing nuclear scientists are co-conspiring with a sinister South African
arms dealer who has discovered a nuclear warhead in the African desert. The arms
dealer and the scientists redesign the warhead as a nuclear bomb, which he sells
on the black market to a neo-Fascist named Dressler (Alan Bates) who intends to
do nothing short of reinventing World War II by delivering the bomb to America
in order to start a rage of nuclear war against America and Russia. The question
is where? When Ryan discovers where the bomb is at, which is in an unspecified
location at the Super Bowl, where the President (James Cromwell) is attending.
What makes The Sum of All Fears
so incredibly engaging, terrifying and pulse-pounding is the ingenious way the
director and screenwriters crank up the never-ending tension in the build up to
the unnerving bomb detonation sequence, done with some astonishing and scary
visual effects. By delivering parallel stories with events going down in
Washington, Russia, and South Africa, the suspense builds up enormously leading
up to the devastating explosion. What follows is nail biting tension between
America and Russia, who are on the brink of nuclear war when the U.S. suspects
mother Russia of the bombing. It’s up to Ryan, who knows Russia is completely
innocent, to deliver the right information to the President before he makes a
The Sum of All Fears
is definitely one of the very best Tom Clancy movie adaptations. I would
probably rank it second next to my longtime favorite, Clear
and Present Danger. It’s simply hard not to get swept up in the whirlwind
of suspense this movie delivers.
The Sum of All Fears
is also a big movie in its look and scope, and with that Paramount has delivered
a flat out wonderfully looking disc, which goes on record as one of the
studio’s best to date. The anamorphic picture is simply stunning the whole way
through, and the work of cinematographer John Lindley, who adds a distinctive
saturated look to the movie in scenes following the explosion scene, come off as
nothing short of outstanding. Surely, one of the best looking discs of the year.
Yet another dose of 5.1 audio brilliance from Paramount. There is
actually very limited action in this movie. However, the big bombing sequence
alone is a perfect moment to demonstrate how good your sound system really is.
Apart from that, the sound quality is very brutally effective, and helps to
elevate the tension of the movie even more. Credit veteran music maestro Jerry
Goldsmith for delivering yet another theatrical quality score that soars in this
presentation all the way!
Paramount is showing signs of returning to their Special Collector’s
Edition roots with this release, and for that I congratulate them very much.
Included on this disc are two commentary tracks, one with director Phil Alden
Robinson and cinematographer John Lindley, and one with Robinson and novelist
Tom Clancy. Also featured are two very in-depth documentaries; “The Making of
The Sum of All Fears” and “Creating Reality: the Visual Effects of The Sum
of All Fears”. A trailer is also included.
The Sum of All Fears
is a grand slam of a suspense thriller, and although it may be a little too hard
to view in post 9/11, the overall movie is sure to make viewers cheer by its