I am a fan of both spy movies and the Jack Ryan series in particular. That said, the reviews for the Sum of All Fears had me avoiding the movie until I saw it up on Netflix. This is the thing – Netflix is allowing me to watch a bunch of stuff which I had enjoyed again, or take a risk with stuff that interests me but that I haven’t bothered to watch yet.
The Sum of All Fears is not a bad movie, per se, but there is much of it that seems to hinge on an idiot plot – a plot that only works if the main characters are all idiots. In this case, it’s idiot tension, and it is at the feet of one character – Jack Ryan. Instead of passing on a key piece of information when he has the chance (multiple chances), Ryan instead gets into arguments. This drove me nuts. I wanted to yell at the screen: just say it!
The action, while unremarkable, was solid. The plot seemed needlessly complex in order to have neo-Nazis as the villains rather than Muslims. I can certainly sympathize with trying not to demonize a particularly demonized group, and I have to say that this change made the plot less complex and unbelievable than the whole “Jack Ryan figures out peace in the Middle East” of the novel, so in the end the neo-Nazi plot thread didn’t bother me too much.
The subplot of Ryan embarking on a relationship with the woman who would become his wife seemed tacked on. I’m not sure if it was some kind of fan service or if it was someone’s belief that every movie needs some romance, but I found it unnecessary.
I like Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan, but he is definitely the least of the three Ryans I have seen. Should the Chris Pine effort come to Netflix, I’ll check that out as well, but I expect he’ll deliver a very different Ryan.
I fear I must give the Sum of All Fears three uncontained nuclear warheads out of five.
You can read more about the movie at Wikipedia here.
You can read about the novel here.