johnlink ranks THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (2002)

I put off watching this for a week. After seeing the first three Jack Ryan films, all solid if not perfect pieces of entertainment, I wasn’t looking forward to revisiting this disappointing fourth entry. But, I sacrificed a Tuesday evening in order to get this complete series finished. That’s just the kind of nice guy I am. Maybe I would get lucky and it would be a better movie than I remembered…

I watched THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (2002) on 8.7.12. It was my second viewing of the film, and first watch since it hit theaters.

Hey, so, I wasn’t completely annoyed with this movie. The performances are endearing, and everyone gives it a legitimate effort. The script is a pile of crap, so that hurts it, but what gets on screen is not horrendous. It is an abomination to the filmed Jack Ryan series (I can’t speak to the novels, since I haven’t read them), and I can’t help but continually think that as I watch the movie.

This reboots Jack Ryan. It’s not just Ryan as a young man, but Ryan as a young man in modern times. So all the other movies are out the window. The only characters in this who were in previous films are his wife (well soon to be wife) played by Bridget Moynahan (taking over for Anne Archer), and Clark, played by Liev Schreiber (taking over for Willem Dafoe). Nobody else is here. Had they just changed the character name to Ryan Jackson, and left everything else the same, half my problems with this movie would go away. Is that irrational? Probably. But I can’t help but compare it to the the nifty thrillers of the 90s which this was born out of.

Of course, the other half of the problem is the script. That I can’t help. There will be some SPOILERS below, so beware, but I’m not ruining anything you probably won’t figure out anyway. This movie saunters along at a normal pace until Baltimore gets nuked. The effect of the bomb going off is surprising and impressive (again, the work on the film is good, it’s the script which isn’t). No ticking timer, no repeat shots of the bomb with everyone being worried. Everything is normal for a moment and then… BOOM. I would say that until the bomb goes off, this movie is on a fairly good trajectory.

It’s a mess post-explosion. The President gets on Air Force One, and is suddenly out of communication with anyone not on the plane. Jack Ryan is putting the pieces together, and everyone at the CIA knows the truth (well the two other people who seem to work there), but nobody will listen… partly because they don’t try particularly hard to make anyone listen. Cell phones work in a recently nuked city. The Russian President listens to Ryan’s plea, and nobody on the US side can get them to stop talking. It’s all fairly incoherent, and it comes out from a series which tends to get a lot of this detail stuff right.

It’s too bad. The performances really are decent. Ben Affleck is fine as Ryan (though he’s the third best of three to play him). Morgan Freeman is great to watch in any scenario. The President (James Cromwell) is surrounded by lofty character actors playing his cabinet (Bruce McGill, Ron Rifkin, Philip Baker Hall). Liev Schreiber provides most of the action in the film, and does so with his usual professionalism. I do appreciate, on that note, that this movie didn’t try to turn Ryan into a sudden action hero. He still uses his brain more than his muscles, and the movie gets that aspect just right.

This is a nice enough movie to see once, but it doesn’t hold up as a Jack Ryan film. It doesn’t feel like a Ryan film, it doesn’t look like a Ryan film, and it doesn’t have the smarts of a Ryan film. I am, admittedly, overly defensive of those first three movies. Despite giving them some modest scores, they still hold a place as some of my favorite thrillers from my film-geek forming years. Coming in 2002, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS was one of the first reboots of a series I enjoyed as a kid. Do I unfairly hold that against it? Absolutely.

But, then, film is subjective.





~ by johnlink00 on August 8, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (2002)”

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