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  Film Reviews: Yeah, It Was A Little Close To Home: The Sum of All Fears  

Tuesday, June 25
Yeah, It Was A Little Close To Home: The Sum of All Fears
Once again, I got the hookup from my source, so husband and I were able to attend a free screening for The Sum of All Fears. To answer what appeared to be every other person’s question first, NO, I do not read the Tom Clancy books. And yes, I do understand that my not having read these books means that I will be completely useless in the event that we’re required to pilot a nuclear submarine through treacherous waters. So why the Jack Ryan series? Simple, my friends. Every guy that’s ever played Jack Ryan is hot. Hot guys are key to the Technical Action Summer Blockbuster (TASB).

First, some explanation on how Harrison Ford suddenly becomes Ben Affleck. The Sum of All Fears is a story that takes place at the beginning of Jack Ryan’s career, so Ben plays the young Ryan. The young Ryan has somehow managed to bend space and time in such a way that the young Ryan’s career actually takes place after the older Ryan’s career. I realize that many of the technical aspects of Clancy’s books can’t make it to the screen, so I’m sure that there’s a 150-page paragraph explaining this quantum quagmire.

Ah, but onto the key points of the TASB. See, the TASB echews the normal SBB trappings in favor of an “intellectual” storyline. “Intellectual” in the case of the TASB translates into “see, honey, I have the ability to enjoy movies that don’t star Jackie Chan especially when the leading actress is not so obviously pretty as to distract me from your own, superior inner beauty.” Alternatively, “stuff blows up really cool!” The TASB also includes Good Guys, Bad Guys and Which Side Are They On Guys. The TASB also includes an important mentoring relationship – preferably, one that crosses racial and/or gender guidelines.

The Sum of All Fears has it all. First, we’re dealing with nuclear weapondry. Stuff just doesn’t blow up any better than a nuclear bomb. Secondly, Jack Ryan’s girlfriend is not only pretty in an unthreatening way, but she delivers the speech to Ben Affleck you only dream you’d be cool enough to give. The good guys are obviously the Americans. The bad guys – everyone’s favorite – Nazis! And who may or may not like us? That’s right, our old standby – the RUSSIANS! Lastly, we have a mentor in the form of Morgan Freeman! (And yes, it has been explained to me that in the Clancy novel that Jack Ryan is really older and married and that Arab terrorists really are at the center of the plot, not Nazis. None of this would work for the TASB.)

I can honestly say that Ben did not completely blow in this role, as he is prone to do (do I have to bring up Reindeer Games?) in his “aw-sucks, I act?” way. I did enjoy the film up to a point. This is a film about domestic terrorism and the terrorists do blow up the Superbowl (no major spoilers – it’s on the book jacket) while in progress. This film was one of the many shelved after the events of 9-11 and, unlike Collateral Damage, was done so for legitimate reasons. No scenes were added or deleted (the decision to make an enemy out of Nazis was done long before filming began) and much of what would have been a “wow, good thing it was only a movie!” suddenly turned into “oh, this is what that whole daily alert thing is about.” Not that this was a discussion during the film, but the entire theater went silent (yeah, people talk ALL the way through movies) at detonation. Yeah, it was a little close to home. Then again, it was the Ravens (well, it was in Baltimore), so husband saw the silver lining for Cleveland Browns fans everywhere.

The Usual:

Recommendation: Matinee – full price if you’re a big Jack Ryan fan.

Annoying Theater Goer: Notice how I was alluding to the fact that Clancy’s novels are a bit too technical for my taste? See how I like the movies anyway? That’s because they don’t include 30-pages of technical crap. Unless, of course, you have the pleasure of sitting near our neighbors. These guys were kind enough to explain to one other (for everyone else’s benefit) vital technical details about fighter jets, nuclear warhead construction, trigger mechanisms and submarines. Whoo-hoo!

Main Reason To See This Film: Ben Affleck may have secretly been taking acting lessons. This is no longer the spank-obsessed kid we knew from Dazed and Confused.

Main Reason Not To See This Film: How many times can we really do this, “I’m-only-four-seconds-from-not-saving-the-earth-but-will-do-it-anyway” thing? I mean, can’t we have a film where we see the hero resolve everything with a good four or five hours to spare? Maybe at the end of the movie, we see them heading off to a leisurely dinner and suggesting that there may be enough time in the end to play a full game of Trivia Pursuit.

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Nudity: No.

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