You're about to breathe air that's way over your pay grade so listen up.
A review by Mike Shea Movie Rating: ( * * * * · ) DVD Rating: ( * * * * · )
Clancy movies are very much like his books. They are huge hits, mass marketed, and not something you'd consider good literature or artwork. They are fun movies. I declared Clear and Present Danger. I feel the same way about the Sum of All Fears. It isn't one of the greatest movies ever. It is not a movie that will make you a better person. It is not a movie that will have a positive effect for film as a whole. It is a good film, and very entertaining.
Verge-of-disaster movies like Sum often have one failing. Humans enjoy disaster. We're drawn to it like flies to a bug zapper. I remember as a kid wishing that the end of Black Sunday had the terrorists blow up the superbowl just to see it. Often the plot isn't able to fulfill our desire to see a disaster, although god knows we have had our share recently, since the whole point is to avoid it. Sum of All Fears sates our primal desire for a disaster and still manages to avoid one at the same time.
The first hour of the movie is an international detective movie. Our young hero proves he has enough brains to get out of the trouble his balls get him into. We meet a wide range of characters, only a few of which are villains, many more are real people with faults. Ben Affleck also fills the role quite well, although he gets very action-heroish in the latter half of the movie. He's diving through exploding cars, getting into fist fights with neo-nazis, and aiming guns at Czech nuclear weapons guards. The movie introduces Clark for the first time, the official US hitman. He's great fun, spending his time dealing with whatever crap he's given with a pistol and a smile.
There is one major problem with Sum, it doesn't fit in with the other movies. We would assume that the movie is set before Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger, but with the events that take place in this movie, it makes that assumption unclear. If it is taken completely out of context of the other movies, that can make it work, but when trying to build a Jack Ryan timeline, it just doesn't quite fit. The best we can do is call it a prequal to the original three movies and we'll just have to assume everyone forgot Jack Ryan was a hero of the peace of the world before Red October started. How a guy who's involved in gunfights, running through exploding cities, beating up giant nazi gorillas, and sending secret messages to the Kremlin can keep using the "I'm just an analyst" line is beyond me, but there it is.
The DVD for Sum of All Fears includes a 2.35 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that does well with the content of the movie. A DTS track would have been a nice touch, however. There is a directors commentary on top of the normal supply of extras. If you need a couple of good mainstream international action movies, this is a good addition to the other three Clancy movies. It fits well next to your James Bond flicks.
Sum of All Fears is a good entertaining movie that takes the typical Clancy movie up a couple of notches. It has some great detective buildup, a huge second act that radically changes the face of the story, and an excellent conclusion that ties everything up nicely. It's hard to see how it fits in with the other Clancy flicks, but taken on it's own, it is a great piece of work.