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How ‘Sum of All Fears’ Got Caught in 9/11’s Cultural Fallout

How ‘Sum of All Fears’ Got Caught in 9/11’s Cultural Fallout


In Phil Alden Robinson’s “The Sum of All Fears” (2002), Ben Affleck’s Jack Ryan is on the CIA in Langley, analyzing footage at his desk job.

The actor sports activities what may be greatest described as his “Daredevil”-era hair. After assaying the job for 14 months, an previous paper Ryan wrote is dug up by Morgan Freeman’s Cabot, a CIA operative who pulls Ryan in as an knowledgeable to help the company on a creating discovery.

It turns on the market’s a nuclear weapon being moved throughout the globe, and Ryan goals to trace it down earlier than somebody can put it to make use of.

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Robinson’s movie launched a welcome unique approach on Jack Ryan, because the character is now youthful, inexperienced and naïve. The grown up and hardened qualities that Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford dropped at the character had but to materialize, although Ryan is at all times outlined in these films declaring, “I’m simply an analyst” and instantly discovering himself in a state of affairs the place he’s an unwilling knowledgeable.

Clancy’s 1991 novel had Arab terrorists, whereas the movie rewrites them as neo-Nazi fascists. One of many central villains is Anatoli Breshnev, an ex-KGB Putin equal, performed by Michael Byrnes, who beforehand performed one of many essential Nazi villains in “Indiana Jones and the Final Campaign” (1989).

The villains have the best energy of their political connections and the positioning of items on their rhetorical chess board. As Alan Bates’ heavy explains, “You don’t battle Russia and America … you get Russia and America to destroy one another.”

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There’s a number of State of affairs Room scenes, with actors wanting straight forward, spouting piles of exposition. This cliché is probably probably the most unavoidable high quality in a Clancy adaptation.

Affleck, whose prior movie was the spectacular “Altering Lanes,” was an important selection for the position and ably carries the movie. Maybe his one and performed standing as Ryan has made followers of this franchise overlook simply how good he’s right here.

Freeman, as at all times, is nice in mentor roles. The scene the place Cabot instructs Ryan to come back clear along with his girlfriend and inform her over the telephone what his job truly entails is nicely performed and written.

The supporting solid consists of Colm Feore, Ciaran Hinds, Bates, Bruce McGill (who has an important scene the place he loses his cool with the Commander in Chief), James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber, Philip Baker Corridor and Ron Rifkin.

That is an absurdly gifted solid.

The movie was made earlier than 9/11 – precisely what the pre-release technique, and the way it modified afterward, is one thing of a thriller. I recall the rumor that the movie might need been shelved indefinitely after 9/11, although the director defined on the DVD commentary that the movie was at all times scheduled to be a summer season of ’02 launch.

Moments of levity apart, this can be a somber movie, depicting the world on the point of catastrophe. As tailored by screenwriter Paul Attanasio, the storytelling is sweet.

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To place it mildly, the movie appears as a lot a response to the horrors of 9/11 as a lot because it was a movie that predicted how the world reacted to the horrors of 2001. A chook’s eye view shot of a cityscape is chilling, because it resembles the ultimate second of normalcy in Baltimore. It’s a dread-inducing, all too acquainted picture.

What transpires after that may be a horrifying spectacle, proven with out music on the soundtrack. CGI is used right here to evoke horror, not popcorn film thrills. What was filmed as an earth shaking “great prevalence” in a Hollywood film, meant to create dramatic weight, turned a scene that was inconceivable to separate from 9/11 and the truth of a modified nation afterward.

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It’s a number of baggage for any film and Robinson’s movie, to its credit score, doesn’t exploit its material as a lot as point out, all too appropriately, the horrible prospects of terrorism and the way we reply to such eventualities.

Like “Collateral Harm,” “Dangerous Firm” and “Large Bother” (all scheduled for 2001 however postponed till 2002), “The Sum of All Fears” depicts modern-day terrorism in a fashion that made its respective studios push again the discharge date.

“The Sum of All Fears” turned the primary post-9/11 summer season film, made earlier than the tragedy however unintentionally coming throughout like a direct response to it. Was the movie an excessive amount of, not to mention too quickly, to benefit escapism throughout a time of therapeutic from a real-life terrorist assault?

Whereas it turned a blockbuster hit, critics and audiences had been divided about this query. it right this moment, the movie is riveting from begin to end and works as queasy escapism as a lot because the adventures of Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne, although these works don’t really feel as near 9/11 as this one does.

The very-Hollywood or, maybe, extraordinarily Clancy-ian portion of the movie is within the third act, with Ryan the one man operating round, attempting to forestall World Struggle III from occurring. The imagery has unavoidable reminders of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ,however Ryan, Clancy’s all-American 007, is at all times on the transfer or frantically yelling right into a telephone as the one sane man in America. Its attention-grabbing however stretches credibility.

FAST FACT: “The Sum of All Fears” earned $118.9 million on the U.S. field workplace in 2002, plus $75 million extra from worldwide markets. The 12 months’s prime movie? The unique “Spider-Man” directed by Sam Raimi.

Two particulars that stayed with me after listening to the movie’s telling DVD audio commentary from Robinson and Clancy: Affleck was Clancy’s favourite Ryan (!) and the writer, sounding crusty and sad, provides the director the backhanded praise on the very finish, noting he didn’t totally screw the movie up.

Thanks, Tom.

The finale is akin to the baptism scene in “The Godfather.” The closing scenes intend to instill hope, with an unlikely encounter with Byrnes’ character leading to a far-too-cutesy sendoff.

It’s an much more syrupy wrap up for a Clancy movie than the what’s-the-baby’s-name lower off on “Patriot Video games” (1992). They shouldn’t have pressured a contented ending, as audiences had been clearly prepared to face the darkness as a lot as Ryan is.

“The Sum of All Fears” is more durable to take than most Clancy thrillers, due to how believable and just like actual life it was in 2002 and right this moment. Whereas an imperfect movie, it really works as meant and as an admirable and worthwhile reflection on how stopping a horrible enemy is usually a collective effort to maintain the unthinkable from ever taking place once more.

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Written by Harry Rosen

Harry Rosen is an accomplished explorer, photographer, creative director, speaker, and author.

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