Ben Affleck continues the Jack Ryan franchise in The Sum of All Fears. Harrison Ford fans will be disappointed that heís not back, but despite all Affleck's best efforts he fronts a pretty good film.There must have been nothing more annoying for political thriller writers than the end of the cold war. There was nothing better than having the Soviets as the bad guys. Standing against everything that The West held dear to their hearts, the Soviets were easy to hiss and boo at. So everybody did it. They were James Bondís old foe and there was many a writer who built their careers on having Russian bad guys.
So what to do now that the cold war is a long distant memory?
The Russians are still the bad guys. Itís just that theyíre the rogue ones who think the cold war is still on. James Bond still has work fighting them to pay the martini bills and so has Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears.
Having realised Harrison Ford is too old, Ben Affleck is the new Jack Ryan. In this type of prequel (heís not yet married, but his girlfriend has a slightly different name) Jack is the new guy that seems to know everything, but no-one listens.
A stray nuke missile that went missing during the 1973 Ramadan/ Yom Kippur War, surfaces in the hands of an arms dealer whoís happy to sell it to the highest bidder. Especially if the highest bidders are disgruntled old school Nazi crazies who want it back like it was in the good ole days when everybody knew that the Americans were evil. Whereas inexplicably now there seems to be some doubt.
Jack knows whatís what, but if only he could get someone to listen to him. William Cabot (Freeman) begins to think that Jackís onto something. Can Jack get the message across before the bad guys nuke the Super Bowl in Baltimore in the hope of triggering all out USA v Russia Ready To Rumble Nuclear Style?
This is a more than adequate popcorn spilling political thriller that has quite a surprising affecting punch - especially after a particularly significant plot turn.
While Affleck as Jack Ryan doesnít quite have the charm of Harrison Ford (Affleck comes across as a bit of a know-all prat), the action is turned up a notch to partially make up for this shortcoming.
The film is glossy and slick as we have come to expect from a Tom Clancy-based movie. At itís heart it is just an action flick, but the plot is involving enough so your brain doesnít feel like itís clogging up with cob webs. The pacing is at times lumpy, but that does help in increasing the emotional reaction you have to some of the storyís major turns.
The original novel is a weighty tome of over 1,000 pages so fans of the book should expect the usual trimming. The film does seem to carry on for more than is really necessary, but then paradoxically there are some loose ends that are tied up too quickly. Perhaps another draft of the script would have helped.
The film will be a timely reminder to reassess how you feel about people who are dead set and all out determined to start a war. Although a secondary issue in this film, current events will drift the mind to the costs involved for personal ambition and the quest for power. You can decide for yourselfA serviceable story made in a serviceable way. The Sum of All Fears isnít quite at dramatic as the title implies, but this film is worth spending two hours to watch.