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The Sum of All Fears(2002)
When the president of Russia suddenly dies and is succeeded by a man about whom little is known, tension increases as old fears ignite new paranoia. Director of Central Intelligence Bill Cabot recruits a young analyst from the Russia desk, Jack Ryan, to supply insight and advice. Then the unthinkable happens: the capital of Chechnya is leveled by a nuclear bomb. America is quick to blame the Russians, and mistrust escalates despite Ryan's certainty that other players are at work. He is right. Terrorists bent on provoking open war between the two nations are moving behind the scenes to manufacture and escalate a conflict. When they successfully detonate a second bomb outside Baltimore during the Super Bowl, the world is pushed inexorably towards war... unless Ryan can supply the needed proof to stem the tide of disaster in time.
For more about The Sum of All Fears and the The Sum of All Fears Blu-ray release, see the The Sum of All Fears Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 1, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber, Alan Bates, Bruce McGill
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
» See full cast & crew
The Sum of All Fears Blu-ray Review
Tom Clancy hero Jack Ryan is back for another political thriller outing. Unfortunately, it has little to do with the original Tom Clancy novel.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 1, 2009
A funny thing happened on the way to adapting Tom Clancy's mega-bestselling novel The Sum of All Fears for film. They forgot to include Tom Clancy's mega-bestselling novel The Sum of All Fears. Well, maybe that isn't so funny, and it's certainly not the first time filmmakers have decided to jettison large portions of a project's source material, but it does seem fairly strange in light of the success story in film for the Jack Ryan franchise, Clancy's CIA hero who was the lead character in such blockbusters as The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. In fact the character was so strong it weathered the sea change of different actors tackling the role, with Alec Baldwin's Ryan in Hunt giving way to Harrison Ford's in the subsequent two entries. Unfortunately, Ford's decision not to star in The Sum of All Fears didn't just spur another trip to the casting agent, it also evidently led to an entire rethinking of the franchise, and to sometimes deleterious effect.
The Sum of All Fears does keep the broad (very broad) outlines of Clancy's book, though Clancy isn't shy about taking direct Phil Alden Robinson to task in one of the two commentaries which supplement this Blu-ray. Clancy decries, perhaps jokingly (more likely perhaps not, given the exasperated tone in his voice), the filmmakers' propensity for "ignoring" his source novel in their film. We still have Jack Ryan, at least kind of. With new star Ben Affleck on board, it was decided, probably because of Affleck's relative youth in comparison to Ford, to start over with Ryan as a character, making him a young entry level CIA clerk and just starting out on a romance with his future wife, Cathy (played by Anne Archer in the Ford outings, here essayed by Bridget Moynahan). That decision in and of itself, while perhaps understandable due to the casting choice, makes Ryan completely extraneous to the action for a great deal of the film, and then when he finally does click into action hero mode, it seems completely antithetical and frankly ridiculous.
Where Clancy's novel was a fairly nuanced examination of the decline of Soviet Russia in the context of a burgeoning Middle East peace agreement, all playing out against rogue forces gaining control of nuclear material which could be incorporated into a bomb, the film version keeps only the barest minimum of plot elements, namely the long lost nuclear material, and a desire by rogue forces (here neo-Nazi fascists, headed by a nicely hiss worthy, if hackneyed, Alan Bates) to pit America and Russia against each other, leaving them in control after nuclear holocaust. Aside from the sheer absurdity with which the film deals with what could have been quite compelling subject matter, it shoots itself in the foot with a lumbering first act and a half that has too much exposition to get through to ever successfully pay off once the radiation hits the fan and Ryan springs into action. The Sum of All Fears succeeds actually more in retrospect than it does as a contemporaneous viewing experience. Once you get to the denouement, the slowness of the first hour-plus of the film becomes more understandable, though wading your way through (at least the first time) is an awful trudge a lot of the time.
The film ultimately is saved from some of its mistakes by a couple of major graces, chief among them the always elegant and stalwart Morgan Freeman as Cabot, Ryan's CIA mentor and the man attempting to figure out exactly what's going on with a Russian military which seems not to be entirely under the control of its President. On the United States presidency side of things, James Cromwell delivers a knockout performance as President Fowler, a man beset by circumstances he could never have imagined. Liev Schreiber is fun as the real action star of the film, CIA agent Clark, who gets to do all the nifty shooting and punching that really should have been Ryan's domain in a better plotted film. Affleck is, well, Affleck, fine if not particularly memorable. There's a reason there hasn't been another Affleck as Ryan film in this Clancy franchise.
The other saving grace is (without posting any spoilers) a literally gasp-inducing occurrence a little over halfway through the film that suddenly brings the awkward first act into focus and then propels the rest of the film through its sometimes silly, but relatively more effective, action adventure second half. Had The Sum of All Fears been able to lead up to that moment with a little more finesse, it could well have been the launching of a new Clancy-Ryan franchise. As it stands, the film is the cinema equivalent of something Clancy goes into great detail about in the book, a dud bomb.
The Sum of All Fears Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Sum of All Fears arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC encoded image that is overall nicely sharp and detailed if at times too dark and lacking sufficient contrast, with some interesting processed shots that lend interesting hues to the proceedings. Before the disaster which occurs about halfway through the film, we get a nice array of deeply saturated blues and reds, with everything from the hairs on Affleck's arms to the incredible painted designs on the Kremilin springing to life in fantastic relief. After the disaster, we're treated (if that's the right word, considering the circumstances) to a weirdly blanched, ice cold white-blue palette that seems just right for what has occurred. Some of the darker interior scenes do seem too dark, with, for example, Affleck's suit basically blending into the background at times. Depth of field is quite good throughout the film, with some good dimensionality in establishing shots around the world.
The Sum of All Fears Blu-ray, Audio Quality
While the overall amplitude of this Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix seems a little low, there are some bombastic effects, notably some great rumbly LFE, that dot the aural landscape. This is not a riot of sound design, as you might expect from something marketed as an action-adventure political thriller. In fact, the bulk of The Sum of All Fears is dialogue, and that is perfectly directional and always clearly up front in the soundfield. That does, however, make the occasional immersive moments all the more impressive, highlighted by the disaster I have tried very hard not to totally spoil for those who haven't yet seen the film. At other times, such "routine" action-adventure sound design moments like gunfire kick in throughout the surround channels and provide some of the aural punch the film as a whole lacks.
The Sum of All Fears Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Two fairly entertaining commentaries, both ported over from the DVD release, are offered, each with director Robinson, but the first with DP John Lindley and the second, better one, with Clancy himself. A two part SD featurette split into Making Of (29:55) and Visual Effects (27:48) segments offer a little background on not only this project, but the Clancy-Ryan franchise as a whole.
The Sum of All Fears Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Sum of All Fears simply takes too long setting up its many convoluted plot elements, and then devolves too quickly into standard action hero fare to ever amount to much. Freeman and Cromwell deliver excellent performances, and the epochal event halfway through the film is certainly gasp-inducing, but otherwise this is a major disappointment in the Clancy-Ryan franchise.
The Sum of All Fears: Other Editions
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