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Reviewed November 11th, 2002 by Brian White


After Clear and Present Danger, the last of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels to be produced as a film, efforts were made to find the next film in the franchise, starring Harrison Ford. The Sum of All Fears was chosen as the source material. However, Ford decided that the script wasn’t what he was looking for, and he took another film. The chosen director also took another film.

Producers set off to find a new Jack Ryan. They were approached by Ben Affleck’s representation. Considering a Ryan in his late twenties, it was decided that this was a great opportunity to reinvent the series. Where Harrison Ford was to be a high-ranking member of the CIA, Affleck’s Ryan is just starting out. He is a cubicle jockey, staring at a computer under florescent lights.

The Sum of all Fears is a really tight movie. It delivers all of the Clancy-esque international intrigue, the espionage, the action, and an intelligent story. The movie delivers, as the title suggests, a very difficult situation for Ryan to overcome. Hats off to the filmmakers for not altering the film in the wake of the events of September eleventh. As horrible as the events of that day, the events depicted here are far worse, and are potentially the most damaging events that could transpire.

And I must also mention that parts of the film were shot not too far away from where this review is being typed. The filmmakers decided that the Deifenbunker, a nuclear bomb shelter formally on call for the Canadian government (and now a museum), would double nicely as the President’s “secure location.” I’ll make my pitch for Ottawa tourism by inviting you all to come and tour the facility as well.

So how is Affleck as Ryan? Quite honestly, I don’t yet buy Ben as an action hero. I haven’t seen Reindeer games, because he’s not credible with a gun. This seems to have been dealt with perfectly in this movie. He starts out as a sort of geeky, anti-hero. We hear that he was in the armed forces, and can take care of himself; so it isn’t beyond reason when we see him in a fight, which is rare. This Ryan is a hero because of his brain and his dedication. Ben pulls it off.

Morgan Freeman anchors the film. He’s perfectly cast as Ryan’s mentor. A very interesting performance is that of Liev Shrieber, who plays a spy in the field. I must confess to not reading the books, but I hope this actor returns.

The video on the disc, as you might well imagine, is very good. This was an expensive film, with great special effects, and cinematography. There is plenty of eye-candy, and action movie goodness. It is presented in 2.35:1, anamorphic widescreen.

The 5.1, Dolby Digital surround mix is active, but not overly so. The movie sounds very good, but there isn’t that over-the-top surround mix that you expect in this sort of film. A helicopter does fly through your surrounds, but the mix isn’t what I’ve grown to expect. Would a more active mix have improved the experience? I don’t know. The movie sounds great, though.

For extras, there are multiple behind the scenes featurettes that discuss many aspects of the production. The production is covered from the drawing board to the screen. The director’s commentary is interesting, in that Director Phil Alden Robinson and cinematographer John Lindley discuss the technicalities of the production. More interesting is a feature-length commentary with Clancy and Robinson. Clancy is full of information, and opinions. The Clancy commentary alone makes this DVD a purchase, if you’re a fan.


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