ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  phil alden robinson

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  action

LENGTH  -  124 minutes

RELEASED  -  31 may 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  paramount pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  the sum of all fears

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $68,000,000
the sum of all fears - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the sum of all fears at

buy the dvd from the sum of all fears at

european neo-nazi terrorists acquire a nuclear device and plan to use it at the super bowl, blaming the attack on russia in the hopes of rekindling the cold war. luckily, cia analyst jack ryan is on the case.

in the book, the original terrorists are a group of muslim extremists, not the neo-nazi's portrayed in the film.


picture from the sum of all fears

picture from the sum of all fears

picture from the sum of all fears


two out of four possible stars

While one might bemoan the loss of Harrison Ford in the lead role of "Jack Ryan" in the ever popular series of films inspired by Tom Clancy's novels, Ben Affleck takes on the role with the ease of someone in love with the persona of a big action hero. The film benefits from Affleck's presence on screen and it seems that as a big budget action hero, he has finally become worthy of that title. In his earlier films, like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor he never was able to fill up the screen like, say, Harrison Ford. And although Fears doesn't have the intelligence quotient of Clear and Present Danger, it still is a good example of a tense filled, battle riddled, high flying action film. It fills its role of big budget summer blockbuster very well. And its success is due to a variety of factors. The first being the benefit of a good casting director.

As it would be impossible to find fault with the performance of Morgan Freeman, who plays "Bill Cabot," it seems fortunate that the actor received above the title billing for his role in this film. While he might have been pushed to the bottom of the movie poster if Harrison Ford had been in the picture, his equal standing with Affleck on the poster was well deserved. Freeman was able to place in his performance just the right combination of humor and seriousness, as was much of the rest of the cast. Perhaps it was the influence of Clancy's original series of novels, which never become too maudlin themselves, but The Sum of All Fears has just enough humor to offset some of the more heavy action sequences of the film.

And with some of the quite intense minutes in Fears, a little humor is a big plus. Though on that note of big action sequences, the marketing campaign on this film was undoubtedly quite the spoiler. It should be safe to say that there are very few surprises for the audience to entertain themselves with if the trailer to the film has already been seen. Ben Affleck sums it up quite succinctly when he mutters something about "European neo-Nazi terrorists" pitting the world superpowers of Russia and the United States against one another. The crux of the entire film is reveals before one has the chance to step foot in the theater. And while audience members who have already read the book might have been privy to more information than non-readers, revealing all the elements of the film, including the nuclear blast, wasn't terribly bright.

The bombing would have been much more effective if it had been kept a secret, or at least not included in the trailer. As it was, knowing that something was going to blow up at some point in the film made it turn into a sort of waiting game. The bomb will go off. It's just a question of when. It's like when people criticized the trailer cutters of Deep Impact of revealing too much too soon (i.e. New York City being inundated by a tidal wave), there is nothing for the audience to discover. And knowing almost all the details of the film beforehand requires the audience to rely on other factors in the film for enjoyment. Like the acting and the script.

And while the acting was probably the strongest aspect of this film, the script doesn't always have the intelligence of this franchise's forbearers. Now it is easy to say that each of the films is quite different because Jack Ryan has been played by three different actors (Affleck, Ford, and Alec Baldwin). Of course, each of the films based on Clancy's novels before this one had a little bit more depth. The humor of the picture aside, Fears doesn't always go deep enough into each of the characters. It seems to be far more removed from the novel than any of the previous film versions. And although there are quite a few differences between the novel and the script for this film, some of the smarts always present in Clancy's techno-thrillers don't show up for duty.

And that reinforces the fact that this film is a true action thriller. Most of the effort is placed on keeping the clock ticking and the story moving, while the in-depth elements of the book fall by the wayside. Though the fast pace of the film also works in its favor, since most of the audience won't have the time to think about the disappearance of the smarter elements. But all the decisions on this film weren't irrational. The casting of Liev Schreiber in the role of "John Clark," the shady spy-type operative who shows up in a few scenes, was much closer to genius than stupidity. In fact, his character was so engaging each of the few times he was on the screen, following his exploits for a few hours in a film of his own wouldn't be such a bad idea.

So for all its faults or successes, The Sum of All Fears turns out to be an entertaining, though not engaging movie. It's perfectly defined as a "popcorn movie." Something to visit the theaters for a good dose of summer blockbuster fun. The length is not too long, making it hard to berate the film for any lack in plot development, and the dialogue is somewhat better than the usual big-budget fare, with much better than average actors delivering it. There are more hits than misses in this movie and as an addition to Tom Clancy's big screen adaptations this movie hits the mark.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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