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"the worst SF films ever made"
The Sum Of All Fears (2002)
review by Porl Broome
I must start this review by stating that I came to this film from neither a pro- or anti-'Jack Ryan' standpoint. Not having read any of the Tom Clancy books, and having somehow managed to avoid seeing all of the previous films, I came to The Sum Of All Fears with a fresh mind. Despite a lack of pre-evolved hatred, I was writhing in my seat within 30 minutes, and by the end of the film I was ready to explode with undiluted venom and incredulity.
The basic storyline veers a little too closely to certain recent events in the US of A for my liking, although obviously the book and the film predate those events by sometime (which kind of makes you ponder, who is Clancy talking to?) involves terrorists trying to force the US and Russian heads of state into a Third World War, by planting a Russian nuclear device inside an American sports arena. The device is detonated, and the terrorist's plan goes into action. Meanwhile, young intelligence analyst Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck - apologies for my Ryan-ignorance, but is this film supposed to predate the Harrison Ford efforts, or is the character of Ryan just getting younger for the hell of it?) is called upon by his CIA boss, DCI William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) because of his knowledge concerning the new Russian premier, President Zorkin (Richard Marner). As the events between the two nations escalate, he begins to suspect that the whole thing is just a sham, and the American government is being set up. But, hell, nobody at work will listen to him - so he's just gonna have to head out there by himself and prove his goddamned point.
One of my major problems with this film (and I have several of them) is that it doesn't know whether to be an espionage thriller, or an all-out action film. As far as the former goes, the plot is one-dimensional and the only question remaining to be answered after 50 minutes is 'will they press the button or won't they?' As far as the latter goes, the action is limited to the massive (and faintly impressive, but scientifically highly unsound) nuclear detonation scene, and a fight scene somewhere in the snowy wilderness. Other than that it's Affleck driving and running around aimlessly, making endless mobile phone calls and getting hung up on.
The finale is where the true incredulity is borne, as our hero (spoiler alert!) single handedly thwarts the onset of World War III using an online messaging service direct into the Kremlin. Hmm... Highly believable - but then, if we can all get into Saddam's inbox, who's to say we can't just text the Russian Premier? Which leads me to a minor criticism: President Zorkin? Now, is it just me, or does that sound like a Flash Gordon bad-guy?
Affleck seems to have a knack for choosing either brilliant or dire films in which to exhibit his talents. And The S(c)um Of All Fears is most definitely not another Dogma, but most definitely is another Pearl Harbor. All in all, this was a waste of talented actors, a waste of a huge budget and, more importantly, a waste of my valuable time. I mean, I could have been watching a better film - like Home Alone II, or something...
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