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Monday, May 31, 2002

Keith Keener's

Positive Movie Reviews

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 game thing!

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 bloody vengeance.

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 home.earthlink.net/~dleheny