Forget everything you know about the literary works of Tom Clancy for the next 5 minutes or so. The Sum of All Fears, the movie, is not the same as the book. For one, it's been updated. The Jack Ryan storyline doesn't fit in with the current events timeline in the movie. But who cares? In all truthfulness, I kind of like it this way. World politics are different now, and Tom Clancy has always tried to write to match the times we live in. As our political focus shifts, so does Clancy's work.
Ben Affleck. The man has got some big shoes to fill. I've always considered Alec Baldwin the better of the two previous Jack Ryan's, and Affleck does an excellent job of carrying on the tradition. Ryan never wants to get directly involved, as he says, "I'm just an analyst". But when the situation requires him to get his hands dirty, he steps up to the plate and delivers for the team. Ben Affleck does a wonderful job in bringing this particular aspect of Jack Ryan to the screen. Jack Ryan is just falling in love with his future wife in The Sum of All Fears and, in a movie season that has seen some really HORRID love scenes in action movies, it's nice to see an actor who can be madly in love and save the world at the same time.
I can't say enough good things about Morgan Freeman. The man is just amazing. As the CIA director Talbot, he has to worry about two different worlds. Not only does he have to be the nations top spy, but he also has to be a politician. Talbot has two faces, and Freeman provides a unique face for each. You can tell that Talbot has been around the block a few times and, like any good spook, he makes it a point to know more than the people he's up against, and even the people he's working with. He's a man who knows more than he's letting on, and you can see it in every scene.
Clancy story's have always portrayed "good guys" making bad decisions. It's human nature. But it's the tension and suspense we see before they make those decisions that really "hits the spot". I won't deny that it requires good acting to pull off scenes like that, but even the world’s greatest actor can only do so much to salvage a film if the script is bad. Fortunately, Fears needs no salvaging, for the writing is exquisite. Speaking of good writing, what would a hardcore Tom Clancy novel be without a twist or three? I’ll keep it spoiler free, but the twists are there, and they are scripted to play out to perfection.
Some have criticized Clancy for changing the terrorists in Sum of All Fears from Islamic Fundamentalists to Neo-Nazi fascists, but you know what?? Ultimately it is his story, and he can do whatever the hell he wants with it. In an atmosphere that has suggested real-world terrorists may have used Clancy's works as blueprints for their own evil actions of destruction, I can understand his desire to separate himself from real world politics as much as possible. Despite the harsh mirror of a possible reality set in this film, The Sum of All Fears delivers a thoroughly intense ride that should not be missed.
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