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Jack Ryan Saves the World!
7/10 "The Sum of All Fears" is the latest film in the Jack Ryan series as written by Tom Clancy. In the previous films, Ryan was presented as a family man and played by Alex Baldwin and Harrison Ford. This time around we are asked to accept a Ryan who is 25 years younger (Ben Affleck), unmarried and a nerdy, wet behind the ears CIA historian. The age difference would have been more believable had the film been set in 1973, when the story begins, rather than the present.5 years ago
Anyway, the story is about a disgruntled ex-Nazi, Dressler (Alan Bates) who acquires a nuclear device and plans to instigate a war between the USA and Russia and then take over when the super powers destroy each other. The new Russian President, Nemerov (Ciaran Hinds) is set up by Dressler to be blamed for a nuculear attack which wipes out a large part of Baltimore. U.S. President Fowler (James Cromwell) calls in the CIA headed by William Cabot (Morgan Freeman).
Cabot enlists the aide of historian Jack Ryan (Affleck) because Ryan has done a thorough study on Nemerov. Ryan believes the Russian to be innocent even though all around him believe him guilty. As each side prepares to launch their respective missles, Ryan and CIA Operative John Clark (Liev Schrieber) are busily gathering information and Ryan is racing against the clock to convince Fowler of Nemenov's innocence.
Affleck tries his best to make us forget Harrison Ford but to no avail. He simply cannot be taken seriously as the man who holds the world's fate in his hands. Freeman is excellent as always and Cromwell and Hinds stand out as the two world leaders. Bates makes a nasty villain and Schrieber is good as the mysterious man with a past, Clark. Bridget Moynahan appears as Affleck's love interest and future wife.
The real star of the picture are the special effects. The nuclear explosion is realistic and believable and the attack on the aircraft carrier is equally good.
I hope that in the next Jack Ryan movie, he is portrayed by someone who is at least old enough to shave.
Great book, horrible, HORRIBLE adaptation (SPOILERS)
1/10 Let me preface my comments by saying that I loved Clancy's book when I first read it ten years ago. It was a gripping page-turner, and a marvelously intricate work, building suspense in layers. I've since re-read it several times.5 years ago
I realistically expected that elements of the massive tome would have to be changed or condensed for the screen version. But so much is changed, and so many critical elements removed, that it hardly resembles its novel origins. As a result I find it difficult to believe that Tom Clancy had much creative control over this effort, though he's credited as "Executive Producer".
First, for some inexplicable reason, this movie jumps away from previous Clancy continuity by completely revamping the character of Jack Ryan. Rather than a middle aged CIA administrator, Ryan is now a young handsome PhD with little Washington experience. Apparently this is to boost the "chick-flick" quotient of this outing, as it adds nothing tangible to the film, and only detracts from the continuity that had been built to this point. There's even a scene where Kathy is asked how "cute" Ryan is on a 1-10 scale, and she says a "12". Ugh! They had time to include this garbage, yet skip vital character development later in the film?
Yet, even worse, this Ryan is the Uber-Ryan. Yes, the man is everywhere, and involved in virtually every action sequence in the film. He finds the bomb lab in Russia (and saves Clark, CLARK, for crying out loud, shouldn't it be the OTHER way around???), races to Baltimore in a helicopter to warn President Fowler(who in yet another huge change is caught in the blast himself) he gets caught in the nuclear blast(and hardly gets his hair mussed, how cliche!), he personally sifts through the rubble of Baltimore for evidence (another inexplicable change, as Denver was the city nuked in the book, then goes on for a cliched confrontation with the terrorists (who are VERY poorly developed character-wise, totally unlike the book) mano y mano in a darkened Baltimore warehouse. Oh, and I almost forgot, there was the obligatory (and oh so overused) Hollywood "death" scene where Ryan (again, Ryan personally) kneels at the bed of Morgan Freeman as he expires in a "tearful" sequence. Yes, it was painful but not in the way intended.
I thought Clancy's books sometimes stretched the believablity of Ryan's capabilities to the breaking point, yet this goes way beyond anything Clancy has previously done. It's Super-Ryan to the rescue, more 007 than distinguished, cerebral CIA analyst, even though he supposedly had little if any experience in espionage, forensics, or any of that. It is very cliched, and very tiresome to watch, at least for anyone that's actually read the books.
One of the best parts of the novel was the realism. Reading it, you really believed that the plot Clancy put in motion could occur. Not this movie. Believable Islamic terrorists were replaced with cartoonish middle-aged white european neo-Nazis who make stock Hitler-loving speeches that any avid movie-goer has heard a million times before. Dr. Evil would love these guys. They even got to kill one of their own rank, ala Dr. Evil, after he experienced the convenient cinematic "crisis of concience". You could see it coming a mile away! I guess that's so we can understand these men are serious and mean "business"
Oh and on the subject of business, since the typical european Neo-Nazi is young, skinheaded, devoted, but not terribly affluent these Nazis were conveniently well-to-do businessmen with the financial assets and experience to put their scheme in motion. Is this Tom Clancy or James Bond? I guess its not "politically correct" to feature the actual type of real world Middle Eastern "gentlemen", with the aid of foreign government sponsorship who even now are striving, again in reality, to make weapons of mass destruction to use against us? I guess its always "safe" to once again bash caucasian conservative-appearing men in business suits. Whatever the reason, its another major plot element from the book down the tubes.
On the subject of the bomb; there was a great deal of detail in the book about the bomb that was completely overlooked in the movie. For example, in the book, the bomb was originally intended to be a multi-stage, ie, HYDROGEN bomb. It fizzled. The original yield was overestimated by twenty fold by military analysts because of reflection of the snow, and other factors. The President's advisors didn't think terrorists could build a multi-stage weapon, thus the suspicion was immediately upon the Russians. It was only after frantic detective work that the true yield of the bomb was discovered, and it put Ryan on the proper track AND gave him leverage to help defuse the situation(no pun intended). It's a common worry that terrorist groups might get ahold of a low yield fission "suitcase" bombs, yet right from the start in the movie no one, including the President, suspects terrorists!
Another fond memory I have of the book is that Clancy took us to the very brink of Armageddon where the US and Russia were nearly in a shooting war because of the misinterpreted size of the bomb, and the tank battle that the German terrorists cause to happen in Berlin. Yet here, the Russians attack and virtually destroy a US nuclear carrier, we bomb a Russian airbase, and we're still standing at that brink. Somehow, I think if events got that far, there'd be no turning back. Clancy seemed to know that when he wrote the book; he seems to have forgotten it here though.
These are just a few of the major problems with this film. The pacing is bad; one minute the bomb is still being constructed, and a few minutes later its already placed in Baltimore and about to explode, with the cliche of Ryan hot on the trail, trying to warn the President. In the book, the bomb catches everyone completely off-guard, but not here, ANOTHER irritating change. There is also very little character development, the President's motivations are poorly understood, the paranoia of Fowler over the new Russian President's motives was poorly developed, etc etc.
Avoid it if you can. I turned the last 5 minutes off, it was so bad.
Good movie, bad adaptation
4/10 OK, I enjoyed the movie. But I also have read the book several times, and the comparisons are inevitable, as several other people have done.5 years ago
I just don't see the point of the most obvious changes from the novel : why using a Neo Nazi fanatic instead of Middle East terrorists? why a very young and single Jack Ryan instead of a married and older character? (Harrison Ford would have been terrific again) Of course a scene aboard Air Force One is more eye candy that a President trapped on Camp David because of a storm and a damaged helicopter. And : where is Ding Chavez??? A character from "Clear and Present Danger", is almost adopted by John Clark after being rescued, and they work as partners.
Some gaps on the story are too difficult to accept : you mean that the ONLY person able to communicate that the bomb was not Russian, is a obscure junior CIA adviser? what about all the agencies and personnel deployed on the explosion site? are they all mute? (On the book, Ryan passes the information but he is not believed by a hostile President and his Nac.Sec. Adviser, *and* a possible power struggle on the Russian government is completely left out).And how come that you can link without any problem from a Palm in the middle of a burned city?
The Sum Of All Cop Outs
3/10 I read the book "The Sum of All Fears" with fascination--Palestenians discover an Isreali nuclear device lost when the aircraft is shot down in the six day war, sell it to Al Queda, and the arab terrorists proceed to blow up Denver with said nuke.5 years ago
I was very much looking forward to this movie, only to find that for fear of offending Al Queda, the director and screenwriters had substituted some ridiculous plot about German Nazi's and turned the whole thing into a melodramatic hash.
This could have been a GREAT, prophetic, movie. instead it became a silly waste of money and talent. I know Tom Clancy hated the movie, so did I.
Holes big enough to fly a jet through
5/10 This is a ridiculous movie. First the casting of Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan just doesn't make sense, chronologically (he's already been played by the much older Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin) or physically Affleck just isn't commanding enough for the role. Secondly the movie is simply capitalizing on North America's new found fear of terrorism on home turf, and thirdly the screenwriter Paul Attanasio took huge liberties with the Tom Clancy novel, including, in a stroke of misguided political correctness, changing the bad guys from Middle Eastern to Nazis. Of course everyone hates Nazis, so the filmmakers are not going to offend anyone (Hollywood finds it so hard to get good hateful villains now that Russia is no longer communist) but are we to believe that there is a worldwide conspiracy by super-rich and powerful Nazis to pit two world powers against one another? And how, after the blast (yes, there is a huge atomic explosion), does Ben Affleck piece together this entire conspiracy using only a cell phone and a palm pilot? I'm willing to suspend disbelief in most movies, but this movie has holes big enough to fly a jet through.5 years ago