The Sum of All Fears (2002)
February 2, 2024 1:11 PM - Subscribe

CIA analyst Jack Ryan must stop the plans of a Neo-Nazi faction that threatens to induce a catastrophic conflict between the United States and Russia's President by detonating a nuclear weapon at a football game in Baltimore, Mary...

Based on Tom Clancy's novel, this espionage thriller tracks a sinister plot to draw the United States and Russia into World War III. When the Russian president (Ciarán Hinds) suddenly dies, world tension escalates. Coupled with missing nuclear scientists and the threat of a nuclear detonation on United States soil, young CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) must uncover who is behind the conspiracy.

debbie lynn elias: Ben Affleck steps into the well-worn Harrison Ford role of Jack Ryan with such a compelling, confident ease and dynamic that you don’t realize it’s not the beloved Ford standing before you. Pre-dating “Patriot Games” and “A Clear and Present Danger,” this Jack Ryan is 28, a former Marine, but still a babe in the woods in terms of his career with the CIA. Writers Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne, together with Tom Clancy, do an excellent job of “prequelling” Ryan, showing us where not only he, but his future wife Katherine, got their backbone. Their script is clean, crisp, tight and high on character development. Hopefully, more Jack Ryan novels will be turned into film, allowing us to further watch Ryan grow into the hero we already know, respect and admire.

Laura Bushell: Under the direction of Phil Alden Robinson ("Field of Dreams"), "The Sum of All Fears" is a solid apocalyptic thriller, glossy and with some stunning special effects.

But for all its apocalyptic fear-mongering, the film remains distinctly uninvolving, relying on dubious plot devices and ultimately sidelining some good actors and a disturbing plot to centre on Ryan's private life.

Though not a bad performance in itself, Affleck's presence is just unsuitable for the subject matter, as is the addition of a paltry love story in the shape of Bridget Moynahan.

The fact that Baltimore has been turned into a smouldering pile of radioactive rubble is forgotten and pretty much inconsequential, so long as Ryan's girlfriend has survived the blast. Ah, if only it was that simple.

Leah Greenblatt and Darren Franich: His Jack Ryan does indeed come off like a lot less like a C.I.A. superhero than a Sigma Nu pledge who got pulled off a hard-seltzer run to go save the world from nuclear annihilation. It's almost a feat of physics, how little weight there is to him here: He is a dandelion puff, a Styrofoam packing peanut, a smirk in the wind. But there's a much bigger problem with this movie, which is also a pretty major spoiler: Who thought it was advisable less than a year after 9/11 to make a mainstream action thriller in which a climactic crisis is not actually diverted at the last moment, meaning thousands of innocent people in a football stadium die in part because Jack — a brilliant intelligence analyst and standout Marine, according to Tom Clancy! — turns out to be monumentally bad at communicating facts in an emergency?

posted by Carillon (4 comments total)
I was very much the right age for this when it first came out. Looking back I agree with the review asking how this got released a year after 9/11, that's bonkers. Still a movie that I enjoy, but think it's less solidly paced than the Ford versions.
posted by Carillon at 1:14 PM on February 2

The villains were changed from the books Arab Terrorist assisted by Native American, to Neo-Nazis assisted by billionaire neo-nazi. I'm not sure if that change predated 9/11, but it would have been awkward if it stayed.

The nuke detonation was definitely effected by 9/11 though. It's clearly edited back to the minimum needed for the plot because audiences wouldn't want to see such massive destruction.

The ending basically involves an analyst trying his best to get the right information to the top brass to prevent a war. I should rewatch to see how that holds up.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 5:15 PM on February 3

I distinctly remember this film being one of the worst Clancy adaptations. The plot seemed kinda all over the place, more like a selection of assorted scenes loosely pulled from the book, than an actually coherent story.

I probably should rewatch it sometime, though, as I've certainly rewatched worse films over the past few years and my initial viewing was some bootleg VCD telesync, so it could have good cinematography for all I know.
posted by wierdo at 8:14 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]

I honestly forget that this film exists as part of the Jack Ryan stories. Unlike the reviewer in the post, I did not find Ben Affleck a perfect replacement for Harrison Ford. Anything but, but those are big shoes to fill. I've seen all the Jack Ryan films up to this one several times, but Sum of All Fears? Just once.
posted by Atreides at 7:40 AM on February 5

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