Young Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) is an upwardly mobile member of the CIA who works with that carefree attitude of those that really enjoy their job as a hobby. World events conspire to bring Jack a dose of bad news when the Russian president dies of a heart attack. His successor, President Nemerov (Ciarán Hinds) rises as an unknown quantity, except to Jack who earlier had written a paper on Nemerov. Jack becomes the first advisor to DCI William Cabot (Morgan Freeman), a position that becomes very unsavoury when the Russians, apparently, detonate a nuclear device on US soil.
Sum of all fears is the best of all the “Jack Ryan” movies. There is less soppy sentimentalism found in Clear and Present Danger and altogether more atmosphere. The eponymous event is very well done indeed, expressing the total surprise that would follow such an event. There are three performances that provide the necessary depth of character to make us believe a nuclear attack has been made. James Cromwell as the American president, Ciarán Hinds as the Russian and Morgan Freeman. This trio elevates the tension more than a few flashy effects of some buffeted helicopters can ever hope to. Cromwell's frustration with his advisors, as events get progressively closer to nuclear holocaust, is sometimes electrifying. Freeman's realisation of what is going on whilst at the American football game is played out with a wonderful sense of timing, blending disbelief with action just right.
If anything, however, the performances of a few outweigh those of the rest. Freeman in particular seems to make others look like the written parts they are rather than normal people. There is a bit too much shady “I know more than you” characterisations that seem to proliferate movies, and novels, such as Sum of All Fears (look out for the very clichéd closing moments). The main protagonist, too, is very one dimensional with a by the numbers plot that even the BNP would find banal. We never feel that this character could be the mastermind of his own wheelbarrow, never mind a trans-national conspiracy that can fool the two largest world powers. Despite this, the fact that the ending is never quite cast in stone makes Sum of All Fears work a little better than it should. And, while there are leaps of logic and scientific implausibilities, the plot does have pace aplenty and never slows up. If you can look past the bromidic characters then Sum of all fears is can be enjoyable. Just.
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