Main cast: Ben Affleck (Jack Ryan), Morgan Freeman (Bill Cabot), James Cromwell (President Fowler), Liev Schreiber (John Clark), Alan Bates (Richard Dressler), and Philip Baker Hall (Defense Secretary Becker)
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
With a cast that makes sleepwalking a new artform, this bastardized Tom Clancy adaptation of the book with same name will be just another dumb movie with big missiles if the media isn't trying too hard to find deeper meanings in this movie.
I know, September 11, 2001. But when we start finding deeper, enlightening meaning in a Tom Clancy book or a Ben Affleck movie, I say Hollywood is finally losing the war to paranoia, mass hysteria, and pretentious self-congratulatory smugness. Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger using September 11 as a tool to sell his vile Collateral Damage as some parochial American kick third world butt movie - mind you, escapism is one thing, but passing that off as something deeper and humane is ridiculous - The Sum Of All Fears is hoping that our leftover insecurities and fears from Sept 11 will give this movie more meaning that it intends to have in the first place.
In this movie, Jack Ryan, after being played by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford, is suddenly a 28-year old single guy looking like Ben Affleck. Wow. Talk about miraculous youth. I guess this is what rehab does to you, huh? You become young, smug, and wooden. Jack is a rookie whose boss is Morgan Freeman (Morgan Freeman playing Morgan Freeman in full Black Kung-Fu Master mode), and together they must find a missing nuclear warhead and kick the butts of ridiculously cartoonish Nazi relics.
Ho hum. Morgan Freeman isn't too bad, but he is playing a role that demands very little from him other than a nod of his head and some arch, wise-sounding mumbo-jumbo. The rest of the cast are actually talented people, such as Ciaran Hinds and Liev Schreiber, but they are wasted in their minimally-written roles. James Cromwell plays his American President like a guru, and George W Bush may want to take some lessons of elocution from Cromwell. Heck, I still say we make Martin Sheen the new president in the next instalment.
But the weakest link here is Ben Affleck. He is essentially playing his sleepwalking, effortless self here. An uneven actor, Affleck lacks the charisma to carry off the role of a patriotic all-American hero, and it doesn't help that he is stepping in Harrison Ford's shoes. If Ford's permanent scowl could at least convey unshakeable patriotism, Affleck is just a Starbucks-swigging yuppie in brand new combat duds brought from Banana Republic - a silly privileged boy pretending to be a superhero.
If this movie is made in 1999, it'll be just another silly post-Cold War Evil Nazis strike back nonsense. But with the media desperate to find Deep Meanings and Saleable Points amidst the paranoia and insecurity after Sept 11, The Sum Of All Fears suddenly becomes bloated with importance, when in truth it is nothing more than another formulaic, routine bomb-and-gadgets dick flick. Strip away the hot air, and there's not much left to savor.
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