Heís back. The latest incarnation of Jack Ryan comes in the form of Ben Affleck, replacing Alec Baldwin and more recently Harrison Ford. This does lead to some very interesting questions; how can this be a prequel when its set years ahead of The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear And Present Danger? How has Jack Ryan become younger, unmarried, wooing his wife from years ago (now a junior doctor), no longer a father and at the start of his career? The older films were set between 1989 and 1994 yet we are asked to believe this is set in 2002. Very strange indeed, perhaps the CIA has a lot of Jack Ryans working for them and this is a new shiny one. The idea just doesnít sell at all.
Now thatís out of the way, letís begin with a look at The Sum of All Fears. After a series of events involving the discovery of a long lost nuclear weapon, which is then sold on the black market to billionaire Neo-Nazi Dressler (Alan Bates). Meanwhile, due to the sudden death of the Russian President, a replacement steps in his place in the shape of Nemerov (Ciaran Hinds), a man with a reputation of being a hard-liner.
To keep things short, Jack Ryan is seconded into a trip to Russia with CIA Director Will Cabot (Morgan Freeman) who is there to see if the Kremlin is actually dismantling its nuclear weapons as promised. Whilst they are there, they notice that three nuclear scientist are missing. Cabot sends his top agent John Clark (Liev Schreiber) to find out where they are.
Nemerov, meanwhile, has taken the blame for an attack on Chechnya and tensions are high between the former USSR and America. He took the blame because he didnít know whom the real culprits were and therefore didnít want to appear that heís losing control of his country.
The three scientists are found making the nuclear weapon that was found into a workable, transportable device. Ryan follows the trail of the weapon only to discover it has been shipped to the United States. He tries to warn people, including USAís President Fowler (James Cromwell) but unfortunately the device goes off (no real surprise as itís in the trailer and every single TV spot promoting the film).
Tensions are at breaking point between the two countries and each is determined to defend itself by striking first. Itís then a race against time as Ryan tries to prove to both sides that they are being set-up, before they both cross a threshold from which they cannot return.
Unfortunately, The Sum Of All Fears is a film that just doesnít deliver. The plot is full of holes and people seem to travel halfway across the world for ten minutes at a time. The whole film feels rushed to a level where you just donít really care anymore. There are too many characters, who pop-up for a few minutes, before disappearing only to pop-up again later on.
Another area where the film lets itself down badly is the nuclear blast. Its shows a disturbing lack of sense for a nuclear blast. Unbelievably sanitised, people get blown over only to appear a few minutes later with nothing more than cuts or bruises. No fallout at all, Ryan runs around at the point where the weapon went off completely oblivious to any sort of radiation (which, ironically, another character is killed through radiation poisoning just by touching the exposed core at the beginning of the film).
The villains in the Tom Clancy novel were Islamic Fundamentalists, which would have made more sense, but the film-makers changed them to Neo-Nazi in the wake of September 11th political correctness.
Performance wise, Morgan freeman is okay as Will Cabot, but still ends up as a bland copy of Ryanís mentor played by James Earl Jones in the previous films. Ben Affleck is just not cut out to play Jack Ryan. He lacks the authority and human aspect that Harrison Ford brought to the role. He is too naive for this sort of role and seems to be playing a totally different character. Even George Clooney was more effective bomb chaser in The Peacemakers. Also winging that heís just an analyst, doesnít really help after the exploits of Ryan in the previous films. James Cromwell is the only character that seems to be putting the effort in as the President of the USA.
Director Phil Alden Robinson stumbles and fumbles the film, ending up with a film with very little heart at all. Less bureaucratic rambling and more depth would have been nice. More focus on Schreiberís spy character, which obviously is an interesting, ruthless character would have been good, but is unfortunately relegated to about ten minutes of screen time. His methods seem to be more Bond-esq than Ryan. Hereís hoping that either his character is given a full film or Harrison Ford can be convinced back (Hell, even Alec Baldwin would do!)
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