Returning to screens after nearly ten years, Jack Ryan gets introduced to a new era of moviegoers, this time with rising star Ben Affleck taking on the role that Harrison Ford made famous during his short stint in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Starting off fresh in a modern world, we see Ryan in his early years, single, and a new addition to the CIA. This is something moviegoers took a liking to, as the film had no trouble raking in nearly two hundred million worldwide, over a hundred of which was domestic.
When the Russian President is succeeded by a man with a cryptic past, the United States scrambles to find information on the man. In their research they stumble across a paper written by Jack Ryan (Affleck), the only man in the States who seems to know anything about the new president. Pairing up with CIA Director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman), Ryan attempts to find out if Russia’s new president is building nuclear weapons in secret, but their work is cut short when a nuclear bomb goes off at a championship football game, at which the President of the United States is attending.
The Sum of All Fears was the first Clancy (and Jack Ryan) film I’d seen, though at the time I had no idea that the three Ryan films that preceded it had any relation to this one. Granted, they really don’t; the character of Ryan is the only link between the two (aside from his girlfriend, who was obviously his wife in the other films), as the time period and all supporting characters are completely different. It’s not the time period that’s hard to swallow, it’s just, once again, the character of Ryan who isn’t entirely developed, although he certainly has more depth here than he did in the previous trilogy.
I realized about halfway into The Sum of All Fears that the plot for this film and the plot for The Hunt for Red October is incredibly similar. In both cases Ryan is the “expert” on the mysterious protagonist whose actions are confusing the United States. Also in both cases Ryan is the only one who truly believes that the protagonist is innocent and the films conflict is eventually resolved by Ryan communicating with the protagonist via other forms of communication via a computer. When you boil it down, the films are so similar that the only real difference is the United States is getting bombed and it didn’t have anything to do with water.
Still, government conspiracy films are always a fun time (for me anyway) and even with its shortcomings, The Sum of All Fears is just a fun film to watch. Affleck and Freeman deliver solid performances and while the film becomes some kind of artistic lens piece by the end, with slow-motion framework and excessive use of fancy lighting surrounding Ryan as he frantically searches for a way to get a message to the President of Russia. The supporting cast is almost non-existent, although I had a good chuckle at the presence of Ken Jenkins as one of the President’s advisors. I’ve known him only from Scrubs and to see him in a serious role sent me into a fit of laughter.
There isn’t anything in The Sum of All Fears that will really surprise you, although the actual detonation of a nuclear device on U.S. soil was a surprising turn of events for a disaster style movie. I think the movie would have been better received if it wasn’t so close to 9/11 when it was released. Oddly enough 9/11 didn’t even cross my mind when re-watching this Blu-ray release, despite it heavily influencing my original opinion of the film when I first saw it.
The humor and action are here in full force and the film is a lot of fun to watch, but it isn’t anything to take too seriously. Under strict scrutiny, Affleck’s acting (especially in the final scene of the film where he talks to a Russian agent) comes off as incredibly cheesy and the repetition of plot points from October will no doubt feel a little too familiar to Ryan fans. Still, this one’s worth checking out just for the interaction between Freeman and Affleck, as well as the action that the film contains overall. Recommended.
Paramount follows suit with their previous two Jack Ryan Blu-ray’s and turns the video transfer for The Sum of all Fears into another muddled mess. While it’s not quite as bad as Patriot Games or Clear and Present Danger, the film still boasts a nice, waxy look the majority of the time with its 1080p AVC encoded transfer. It’s incredibly distracting when Michael Byrne, who played Anatoli Grushkov, was on screen and his face, full of wrinkles, became a smeary mess. The film perked up at other times in terms of clarity, and the aforementioned “artistic” shots towards the end of the film did look rather nice, with a solid level of grain left intact. Audio for the film is presented in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that sounds fantastic and keeps the room booming, especially during the spontaneous nuclear blast that absolutely rattles the walls. Alternate French and Spanish Dolby 5.1 tracks are also available, as are English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. As a side note I found the audio to be a tad bit lower on the TrueHD track that the other Ryan flicks; I had to pump up the volume higher than usual just to understand what characters were saying on occasion. Not a huge issue, as the track sounded clean and clear even boosted up, but just something I noticed.
The rest of the package is carried over from past releases. The Blu-ray itself arrives in a standard Blu-ray case with the regular Paramount grey disc art wash and an insert informing you to keep your Blu-ray player up-to-date (Note: It won’t make this transfer look any better). Since this was the most recent of the Ryan flicks it’s only natural that the set has the most extras. A pair of commentaries starts us off, the first with director Phil Alden Robinson and Cinematographer John Lindley and a second with director Phil Alden Robinson and Novelist Tom Clancy. Robinson overlaps some of his comments, but Clancy and Lindley create a unique element for each of the commentaries. Clancy especially is a fun person to listen to as he comments about his bestselling novels hitting the big screen with some of Hollywood’s leading talent taking on the reins of Jack Ryan.
Moving onto the rest of the extras we have “The Making of the Sum of All Fears” (29:55), a two-part documentary that takes us through the process of making the film. Unfortunately this one doesn’t have the same “time has passed, we can be free with our comments” feel about it like the other Ryan releases has in their making-of’s, so there’s a whole lot more back patting going on. Still, it is a decent two-part documentary that’s complemented by a five-part “The Visual Effects” (27:48) featurette, each one of which talks about a certain visual effect used in the film. Finally there’s the “Theatrical Trailer” (2:24, 1080p, 5.1 sound) that once again blows away the video quality of the actual film. So strange and so annoying.
Overall The Sum of All Fears is a worthwhile movie to spend a couple hours with, but the mediocre technical presentation makes this an easily Skipped Blu-ray release.
The Sum of All Fears is now available on Blu-ray.