Sum of All Fears, The

2 bone dogPG13
Stars: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Bridget Moynahan, Liev Schreiber, Alan Bates, Philip Baker Hall
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Writer: Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne, from the novel by Tom Clancy

You know Armaggedon is about to be unleashed from the opening theme music alone, a hymn-like vocal accompanying scenes of a jet carrying a nuclear bomb aloft and then crashing into the desert. We know it’s only a matter of time, 29-years to be exact, before the intact bomb is found by scavengers and sold to some terrorists who know only too well how best to use it. That’s post September 11 sensitivity at its sharpest. This time around, though, the terrorist plan involves playing Russia and the United States against each other to mutual obliteration.

The Sum of All Fears is disturbing to watch for its startling realism, such as the sequences depicting vast destruction from the detonation of the nuclear bomb on American soil and the subsequent confusion, mutual distrust and fear that threaten to topple the superpowers but not before we get to watch the leaders sweat bullets moment to moment.

This is the fourth film based on a Tom Clancy best-seller and it features its third actor in the role of CIA analyst Jack Ryan. This time he’s played by Ben Affleck, in a kind of prequel in deference to his age. His Ryan is relatively new to the CIA and not yet married to the woman physician, Dr. Cathy Muller (Bridget Moynahan), soon to be his wife. Ryan gets called into play only after the Russian President dies and the man Ryan expertly profiled a year earlier steps up to take his place.

Ryan is then asked by CIA director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) to accompany him to Russia to meet with the new president, Nemerov (Ciaran Hinds), and help oversee routine weapons inspections. In short order, the Americans discover that three Russian weapons experts are missing from their posts at the nuclear facility they’re inspecting. That leads to suspicion and investigation. Meanwhile the three well-paid scientists and a cadre of neo-fascist terrorists, led by an egotist named Dressler (superbly played by Alan Bates), manage to activate the bomb and transport it to Baltimore where American President Fowler (James Cromwell) is enjoying a football game.

The Sum of All Fears is a taut and riveting thriller that takes its doomsday message a step further than most films. Affleck holds his own where bigger stars have tread and does best in the action scenes or opposite Freeman. Morgan Freeman is truly a delight. His character is so measured and wise and it’s fun watching his Russian counterpart play the same tune. I especially liked Liev Schreiber as field agent John Clark; he’s witty but still manages to stay seriously in touch with serious matters. Also features: Philip Baker Hall as hot-headed Defense Secretary Becker, Ron Rifkin as the cooler-minded Secretary of State Owens, Bruce McGill as National Security Advisor Revell and Colm Feore as South African arms dealer Olson. Both Cromwell and Hinds make for believable presidents.

Lotta says: The Sum of All Fears keeps you nicley glued to your seat.

Reviewed 5/31/02