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THE SUM OF ALL FEARS
Blu-ray Edition

Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber, Alan Bates, Philip Baker Hall, Ron Rifkin, Bruce McGill
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: July 29, 2008

“What are three Russian atomic scientists doing in Ukraine?”

“Fair guess, they’re building a bomb.”

Film ***1/2

The 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 tragic mistake.

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.

Video ****

The Sum of All Fears is the most recent film chronologically in the Jack Ryan series, so it was no surprise to me that it also comes across the best on Blu-ray.  The cleaner film stock lends itself well to the high definition transfer.  The details are crisper, the colors are more vibrant, and the contrast levels are stronger than ever.

Audio ****

Likewise, this disc marks the most impressive of the TrueHD tracks.  There's more punch and dynamic range, and the uncompressed audio handles the action and the quieter more intense scenes with exceptional clarity and crispness.

Features ****

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, remastered for HD.

Summary:

The Sum of All Fears is a grand slam of a suspense thriller, and marks for the finest Blu-ray offering overall of a Jack Ryan film from Paramount.

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