Cinemalphabet: S is for The Sum of All Fears
Firstly, let’s start with the title – The Sum of All Fears. Now this might have been apt if we’re talking about the book’s events versus the movie’s events, but as far as the movie, “The Sum of a few Cherry Picked Fears That Really Only Harsh Super Bowl Attendees and Freeman Fans’s mellows” is probably much more accurate, but obviously a real bitch to get on the marquee.
Then we have a twofer: Tom “The Sum of all Filmmakers’ Fears” Clancy and Phil Alden Robinson who I know best from sublimely underrated Sneakers, All of Me and the “I’ll never watch that shit” classic Film of Dreams. SoAF is NONE of these movie.
Watch your back, Wolfgang Petersen!
Paul Attanasio, you know I love you more than any show creator in the world, but what in the name of Adena Watson are you doing here? You are all about the close, subtle moments. This movie has neither close nor subtle moments. And you’re only one of several listed writers. Please tell me you came in to clean this up when Carrie Fisher was unavailable for hire.
This is all before the movie begins! And all we have to feel good about is the trifecta of geezer bad assery: Cromwell, Baker-Hall and Freeman. And our good friend Liev.
So the movie starts and there’s some sketchy ret-conning of the Yom Kippur War of ’73 – setting off my chow chow alarm and my eyeballs were clocked doing some serious RPMs. Last I checked the Yom Kippur war had nothing to do with bombing the Super Bowl in Baltimore. Then again, my knowledge of 70s era Middle Eastern conflicts could be a bit rusty.
When we finally meet Jack we are told he’s a “historian”. When guys who look like Jack (as played by Affleck) claim to be “historians” the next scene better involve the College All American Football team, a clipboard in his hand and a whistle around his neck. If they want us to believe him a serious scholar of history can he not look like the kind of college ball player who majored in history, washed out as a pro and now coaches JV?
Not only is he a “historian” but quite the fanboy of the Kremlin – knowing all the ins, outs and whathaveyous of their love lives, their tastes in fine dining – you get the picture. And really this is all very thrilling, but I’ll like to see the advertised sum of all these proselytized fears! That’s what I paid my cashmoney for. If I wanna see Affleck chow chow I can watch a Kevin Smith movie.
Moving on to Jack’s girlfriend. I love me some Bridget Moynahan. I really do. Because she was so cool in Coyote Ugly and a perfect foil for Carrie on Sex and the City, but I don’t think her character is useful here. I think the audience can take for granted Jack has a special lady friend and the relationship is as complicated as any others in his life. The two actors have almost no chemistry and good for them not pretending. Oh yeah she’s a second year surgical resident and works in Baltimore. And based on her character name, she later goes on to become Mrs. Jack Ryan. I hate when filmmakers poke you in the eye to will your tears. “She matters to him” *poke poke* “She matters to him” *poke poke*
There’s a lot of poking around and you can thank the script for that. When Jack finally meets Cabot (Freeman) he is under dressed for the occasion. I should say at this point I will never tire of grown ass men calling other grown ass men who show up to events under dressed while carrying important business papers “Paper Chase”. It just never gets old, nor stops being funny.
The plot and the script ski downhill from there.
Nowadays I generally sleep through the bombs over Baltimore, and wake up oh about the time when Liev struts across the screen and shepherds the meandering plot along. He was fantastic. Truly the best thing that happens to this movie, unfortunately is we’re getting pretty close to the end and they’ve still not made good on the promise of all those fears.
That’s fine though, by this point the only real fear is the possibility that the movie will never end.