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The Sum of All Fears (2002) – DVD Review

The Sum of All Fears DVD cover art


Written by: Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne, based on the novel by Tom Clancy
Directed by: Phil Alden Robinson
Starring: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Liev Schreiber, James Cromwell, Richard Marner, Alan Bates, and Bridget Moynahan


  • Running audio commentary by director Robinson and novelist Clancy
  • Running audio commentary by director Robinson and cinematographer John Lindley
  • The Making of The Sum of All Fears
  • Creating Reality: The Digital Effects

Released by: Paramount
Region: 1
Rating: PG-13
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Rent it.

[ad#longpost]Jack Ryan (Affleck) has just started his tenure with the CIA. He’s in love with a beautiful young surgeon named Cathy (Moynahan) who also just happens to love him in return. Before long, Ryan finds himself being called on the carpet by CIA Director William Cabot (Freeman) who happens to report directly to President Fowler (Cromwell). He gets sent to Russia for nuclear arms inspections with the Director and sent on covert operations with a mysterious man named John Clark (Schreiber). You see, there’s a bit of a problem–there’s a missing nuke out there somewhere–and it’s missing on purpose.

For those of us who are Clancy purists, this movie had a great deal to overcome to be tauted as a good “Jack Ryan” movie. Let’s deal with the obvious first: Ben Affleck is much younger than Harrison Ford. This movie presents a kind of paradox for those of us who have been reading the Ryan novels for many years now. The paradox is this: we are supposed to follow a Jack Ryan who is just starting out in the CIA in the year 2002. So, the character seemed to be stepping several years into the past, while the plot and story take leaps into the 21st Century. Anyway, if you can get beyond that, this movie is not all that bad and seemed to benefit from having Clancy’s direct influence as Executive Producer. It’s good in that the story is intriguing and the characters are well developed, although Affleck seems to languish in the Wet Behind The Ears Young Hero character a little longer than the script seemed to call for. If there is a true overlooked star of this movie, it is Scheiber who plays an absolutely perfect John Clark.

The DVD is not that bad, either. The Making-Of Featurette is fairly bland, but there is more detail given about each of the actors in the cast. The interviews are, for the most part, exactly what you’ve seen before; actors talking about how wonderful it was to work with the other actors and director. Affleck talks a bit about the challenge that he had “reinventing” the Ryan character, but that’s about it. The special effects segment is okay, but the SFX guys who provide the insight look like the guys who got most of the wedgies in high school. And most of the stuff they talk about comes across sounding like the type of stuff that got them the wedgies in the first place.

There are two commentaries, but really you only need to concern yourself with one of them. Let me get the other one out of the way first. The one with Robinson and cinematographer John Lindley you can skip. Throughout the course of their conversation, they really get too technical for my taste. If you are a true movie gadget or photography enthusiast, you might enjoy knowing what type of lens they used to get various shots, but for the average consumer–it’s not designed with you in mind and will more than likely get boring. No, the commentary of choice is the one with Robinson and Clancy. Not only are the topics of conversations worth noting, but it’s also interesting to find out what Clancy really didn’t like about the film and to hear Robinson defend the choices. Clancy is very outspoken and has no problem at all letting his audience know when something is complete bull…and yes, he calls it that most of the time. This is very much worth spending the time on.

While points are given for having a fairly stacked DVD, since the movie is only okay and the DVD is about the same, this one stays on the rental list. But do rent it, because the thrills are present and in decent form.

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