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The Sum of All Fears
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Genre:Disaster
Year:2002
Rating:PG13
Length:2 Hours 3 Minutes
Cast:Phil Alden Robinson, Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell

Assuming the mantle previously worn by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck becomes CIA agent Jack Ryan in this riveting spine-tingler based on one of Tom Clancy's early novels. Sadly, The Sum of All Fears -- which depicts a terrorist's nuclear attack upon an American city -- acquired unexpected relevance following the events of September 11, 2001. Ignoring the continuity established in the earlier Clancy adaptations The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger, Sum introduces Ryan as a callow intelligence analyst taken under the wing of a veteran agent (Morgan Freeman) when relations with Russia become strained to the breaking point. Unbeknownst to them, a nihilistic neo-fascist (Alan Bates) hopes to precipitate nuclear war by exploding a small atom bomb in a Baltimore football stadium -- and making sure that the Russians are blamed. The horrific consequences of this act are depicted realistically and in chilling detail, and Ryan races against time to prove that terrorists are behind the bombing. Sum's script has some incongruities and relies on improbable coincidences, but director Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams) maintains such a brisk pace that you won't be aware of them until the film is over. Affleck may strike some Clancy fans as being too boyish to play Ryan, but he's believable in the role and additionally enjoys the backing of a terrific supporting cast that includes James Cromwell as the beleaguered President, Liev Schreiber as a cold-blooded CIA "spook," and Colm Feore as one of Bates's associates. At times a grim and even frightening film, The Sum of All Fears is also a compulsively watchable thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat -- literally. Robinson supplies two full-length commentaries for the film on DVD, one with cinematographer John Lindley and another with author Tom Clancy. There are also two featurettes covering various aspects of the film's production. Ed Hulse

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