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Review: 'Sum of All Fears' well-done action film

Affleck capable new Ryan

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By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

(CNN) -- Do yourself a favor: Don't try to put "The Sum of All Fears" into any kind of timeline with the other Tom Clancy books-turned-movies featuring Jack Ryan.

Ben Affleck has replaced Harrison Ford in the lead as Ryan, and while the character is obviously younger -- and lower-ranked -- than in "The Hunt For Red October," "Patriot Games," and "Clear and Present Danger," the action is set in present day. So just let it go.

Paramount is boldly trying to revive the Clancy franchise, and "The Sum of All Fears" delivers with a resounding bang. Deftly directed by Phil Alden Robinson ("Field of Dreams" 1989), this movie starts cooking with the opening credits, as we're filled in on the back story of how a nuclear bomb comes into the hands of terrorists.

Based on Clancy's 1991 novel, the screenplay by Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne is expertly paced and beautifully shaded, with minor plot points that foreshadow major events later in the film.

Morgan Freeman steps up with a strong performance, as usual, as Ryan's boss, CIA Director William Cabot. James Cromwell lends his considerable talents to the role of President Fowler, who is confronted with the possibility of pushing the button that will plunge the world into nuclear holocaust.

Evil plans

As the movie begins, Ryan has just met his future wife, Dr. Cathy Muller, played by Bridget Moynahan (Anne Archer played the role opposite Ford). At this point, she has no idea Ryan's just starting his career as an analyst for the CIA.

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Across the world, Richard Dressler (Alan Bates), a mega-rich fascist, hatches a plot to explode a nuclear bomb on U.S. soil and blame it on the Russians, thereby causing a war between the two world powers. Of course, the only thing standing between Dressler's evil plan and reality is -- dah dah -- Ryan.

Irish actor Ciaran Hinds gives a convincing portrayal of Russian President Nemerov, who has to be sized up by U.S. experts -- including Ryan. The CIA man is a reluctant hero, and although Affleck does play a convincing rookie, he lacks Ford's wonderful sardonic wryness. However, the extremely likeable Affleck does pull off the part.

Liev Schreiber, best known for small independent films, is outstanding as John Clark, a CIA special operations agent -- in other words, he kills people -- who drags Ryan into the action kicking and screaming.

At one point, Ryan yells at him, "I don't go on missions, I just write reports." To which Clark replies, "So write a report on it."

Maintaining standards

Another big reason for this film's success is producer Mace Neufeld, who has nurtured the Clancy franchise from the beginning.

Starting with Alec Baldwin, who starred in "The Hunt For Red October," to the next two films starring Ford, and now this latest incarnation with Affleck, Neufeld has also worked with three different directors -- John McTiernan, Phillip Noyce, and now Robinson -- and has helped maintain the same tone and feel throughout all four films. It also should be noted that the score by Oscar winner Jerry Goldsmith is excellent.

The storyline carries a haunting sense of the possible. A year ago, the idea of foreign terrorists detonating a nuclear bomb on U.S. soil was almost inconceivable -- safely in the realm of fiction. But after September 11, it all seems terrifyingly within the reaches of reality.

"The Sum of All Fears" is brimming with adrenaline, the main ingredient for summer movies. The nonstop action takes you all over the planet, and you'll find yourself totally caught up in this exhilarating adventure. You may not even miss Harrison Ford. Okay, just a little.



 
 
 
 



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