The Sum of All Fears
I am more excited right now than I have ever been, at
least since the moment that my parents appeared to buy my story about
having a date for the senior prom, when in fact I was going over to my
friend Len's place for a marathon "Dungeons and Dragons" tournament.
My most recent reviews have been published in a San
Francisco paper (www.sfcall.com),
and I have been invited on my very first press junket. Tonight I will go
to Madison, Wisconsin's capital, to meet the Ben Affleck and the other
stars of "The Sum of All Fears" and ask them all about the movie!!! I
decided I should see the movie first, because I thought that that might
help me ask better questions. You know, not "what happens at the end?"
but instead "why does the thing that happens at the end happen?" You
can't spell "interviewing" without the "viewing."
Anyway, I was a little late to the cinema and saw the
poster with Ben Affleck's trademark face and ran in, not even listening
to the cashier's usual warning about not bothering other people in the
theater. "The Sum of All Fears" turns out to be the craftiest, most
surprising, and most heartfelt spy thriller in years, and one that will
"re"ward "re"peat "viewings"! I am really getting the hang of this word
Based on Tom Clancy's novel, which I now plan to listen
to in an abridged book-on-tape, "The Sum of All Fears" subtly updates
and alters the story to make it fit the ghastly reality of the
post-September 11th world. Working undercover, CIA agent Jack Ryan (Affleck)
accidentally sideswipes a car driven by a terrorist (Samuel L. Jackson),
and ends up to a tense battle-to-the-death with him over the course of a
terrible day. The terrorist's fiendish plan is to buy a house where he
will plant his "family." But in the course of a crazy mix-up at the
accident site, he ends up with some top-secret CIA files but misses the
chance to buy his dream house, so he turns his dream from a house to
What is brilliant about "The Sum of All Fears" is its
subtleness. In the TV commercials, they make it look like Jack's black
companion is in fact the head of the CIA, not his sworn enemy, a brutal
terrorist. But in the movie, he is a terrorist, and no one ever says
directly that Jack is a CIA man. You just have to know it by being a TV
watcher or, I guess, a reader of Tom Clancy novels. This is what they
call "synergy." The main reason I want to see the movie again is to see
if they drop hints that Affleck works for "The Agency."
The movie is a series of chases and angry conversations,
and the action is very brainy. This isn't your father's CIA, with fast
cars, guns, and poisonous darts that men shoot out of their pee-holes.
This is the new CIA, the kind that relies on "infotechnowar." So Affleck
(who I call Ben Affable, because he seems so affable), goes after the
terrorist by freezing his financial assets, bankrupting him, and
basically making his life an unbearable living hell. Jackson (who I call
Action Jackson, because he saw lots of action in his only other film
role, in "Star Wars Episode Two: Menace of the Clones") strikes back by
talking angrily to Affable.
Two moments in the movie stand out, both showing how
brutal Jackson can be as a terrorist. In one, he viciously attacks two
white men whose only crime is that they are belligerent, loud, racist
drunks who approach him in a threatening manner and indicate to him that
they will probably use violence against him. In another moment, he
tries to murder his own sons at their school, and is prevented from
doing so only by some quick thinking from Jack Ryan (Affable).
By the end of the movie, it appears that we are not so
much secure as we are caught in an uneasy balance between a CIA hero and
a vicious terrorist who wants to buy a house next to ours.
I know this is short, but I have to go now so that I can
make it to the press briefings on time. I can't wait to meet Ben Affable
and Action Jackson, so I can tell them about the names I have for them.
This isn't as great as meeting Heath Ledger and Julia Roberts, but I can
wait. The only thing is that being in a big city like Madison always
makes me a little nervous.
Anyway, I predict that next March, "The Sum of All
Fears" will prove to be more than the "sum" of its parts, and will win
Ben Affable his fourth Best Actor Oscar.
On a scale of four or five stars, I give "The Sum of All
Fears" five stars!!!
Earlier positive movie reviews can be found at