Directed by Phil Alden Robinson, Starring Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Ciarán Hinds, Alan Bates and Liev Schreiber.
In supporting roles like 'Good Will Hunting' and left of centre movies like 'Chasing Amy' and 'Dazed and Confused', Ben Affleck has acquitted himself with some distinction. But the camp that says he has what it takes to be a leading man is both small and huddled. The likes of 'Armageddon', 'Forces of Nature', 'Bounce' and 'Pearl Harbour' never suggested that Affleck could carry a whole movie and while trying his best in 'The Sum of All Fears', it looks like there could be even more defectors to the other side of the argument.
Reworking Tom Clancy's bestseller so that the bad guys are Neo-Nazis with a nuclear bomb and not fundamentalists, CIA man Jack Ryan (Affleck) signs up for the standard Hollywood race against time to stop the US (fronted by Cromwell) blaming and squaring off against Russia (led by an underused Hinds) following a massive terror attack on home soil.
While director Robinson should be praised for toning down the violence, thereby allowing youngsters to see a thriller, 'The Sum of All Fears' still has enough clichés and cut out characters to condemn it to mediocrity. There are shady Russians who just mightn't be so shady after all, major briefings where the one thing the super powers have in common is that they can only afford one 40 watt bulb in the office, and a hero whose resourcefulness and insight makes you wonder why the CIA doesn't just start printing off the P45s in their thousands.
Of course, you'll still keep watching because it's all so over the top but when Cromwell's President has to figure out whether he should get his retaliation in first, 'The Sum of All Fears' has a level of tension and drama that Affleck's scenes never come close to. Even Freeman, as Ryan's boss, can't be relied upon to give the film more of an edge. There's a nice chemistry between himself and Affleck, but his part isn't big enough to turn things around.
And perhaps that is Robinson's biggest mistake: not giving Affleck a foil for the whole movie. The Freeman scenes aside, he also has a few great minutes with Liev Schreiber (cast against type as a hitman), but otherwise he has to figure out global salvation all by himself and he just doesn't have the intensity to alter your feeling that everything will fit precisely into place.
Which is more than you can say about the major continuity booboo of having Affleck play a character called Jack Ryan in the first place. So far, we've had Alec Baldwin start the franchise in 'The Hunt for Red October', then Harrison Ford in 'Patriot Games' followed by 'Clear and Present Danger' and now it seems as if Ryan has been mainlining botox since his last adventure and has become 30 years younger. If he keeps it up, the kid from 'Jerry Maguire' will be rescuing us all a few years down the line.