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The Sum of All Fears Review

By Shawn McKenzie 06/02/2002

Warning!  Minor Spoilers!

You know what's weird? I had no idea that there was still a fear that movies were traumatizing people post-9/11 until the day before I saw The Sum of All Fears. I honestly thought America had moved on from being scared of a movie. When Collateral Damage and Big Trouble were finally released after both being pushed back from their original dates because of their terrorist content, I thought maybe the fear was over. I guess I was wrong.

The truth is, there has been terrorism in movies for decades. There has also been American landmarks being fictionally destroyed for decades too. Was anyone traumatized when the aliens blew stuff up in Independence Day? What about all the oversize monster movies of the 50's, 60's, and 70's destroying landmarks? Did anyone really need therapy after them?

I hate to sound insensitive, but when did people above the age of 7 stop separating fiction from reality? Come on people...IT IS JUST A MOVIE! It's escapism. I personally think last year's Freddy Got Fingered was more disturbing than The Sum of All Fears. Sure, there is really terrorism going on in the world, but if a movie (that had been worked on before 9/11) really bothers you that badly that you think it shouldn't be shown ever, you might have bigger problems. I would get some professional help and talk out your problems.

If you were going to have any problem with The Sum of All Fears, it would be as a Tom Clancy fan. You might be complaining about them changing the villains from Islamic extremists (in the novel) to Neo-Nazis. You might be whining that they mess with the Jack Ryan timeline. Then you would have to suck it up after you realize that Tom Clancy himself is an executive producer!

In case you are not a follower of the books (I'm not) or the movies (I am), here is what the movie is about. 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 (Morgan Freeman) recruits a young analyst from the Russia desk, Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck), to supply advice to him during a nuclear arms inspection. Soon after the capital of Chechnya is leveled by a nuclear bomb. America is quick to blame the Russians, and mistrust escalates despite Ryan's insistence that there is an independent terrorist at work. When those terrorists successfully detonate a second bomb outside Baltimore during the Super Bowl, America and Russia are prepared to go to war...unless Ryan can get the president the needed proof to stop the missiles from being launched!

Now, for the nitpicky Clancy fans, here is the problem. In the world of Jack Ryan, the events in The Sum of All Fears take place after the previous three stories (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger), but the movie puts Jack Ryan in the present time and before the events of the first three movies. Confused? I was a little as well, but since Clancy liked Affleck for the Ryan role, it obviously had to be reworked to take place in a younger time in Ryan's life, since he is much younger than either Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October) or Harrison Ford (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger.) I, as a fan of the movies, forgive this disruption, because I am an Affleck fan (mainly because I am a Kevin Smith fan) and Affleck is very good in this movie.

If you put the controversy aside and look at the movie on its own merits, it is a very exciting flick. Even if you do know what will happen in the movie (via the trailer that gives away the biggest climactic scene), it still keeps you on the edge of your seat. As I stated before, Affleck's performance in this movie is excellent, and actually rivals that of Ford. His chemistry with Freeman, Bridget Moynahan (as his soon to be wife Cathy), and Liev Schreiber (as John Clark) rivals Ford's with James Earl Jones (as Admiral James Greer), Anne Archer (as Cathy), and Willem Dafoe (as John Clark.)

If you are mentally stable and want to see a genuinely thrilling Jack Ryan movie, check this movie out. Affleck in The Sum of All Fears won't put you to sleep the way Baldwin did in The Hunt for Red October. You'd have to be disturbed to watch that movie again!

Check out the original Tom Clancy novel:

The Sum of All Fears




Check out the original score composed by Jerry Goldsmith:

Sum of All Fears (Score)



Check out the Red Storm Entertainment computer game for Windows 98/NT/2000/Me/XP:

Sum Of All Fears


Check out the first three Jack Ryan movies on DVD:

The Hunt for Red October


Patriot Games



Clear and Present Danger


Buy these items at

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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