The Sum of all Fears
Film Length: 123 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
27,000 Nuclear Weapons. One Is Missing.
For me, I found The Sum of All Fears to be
the weakest of the Tom Clancy films. I think the
problem is that I always felt Harrison Ford to
be the definitive Jack Ryan. His character was
confident, capable and a little crumpled around the
edges. In a vehicle no doubt geared towards
bringing actor Ben Affleck to the center screen,
Producer Mace Neufeld and director Phil Alden
Robinson chose to re-position Jack Ryan as a 28
year old analyst in contemporary times. The
immediate problem is that Affleck never lives up
to the character, bringing a less dramatic presence
than what was portrayed by Harrison Ford or even
Alec Baldwin. Still, Afleck does a reasonably good
job here delivering a likable character while
offering very little in actual screen presence.
In this film Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) is shown as
a young whippersnapper just getting his start
into the CIA, with a doctor girlfriend (Bridget
Moynahan) constantly being subjected to late-night
emergency calls. The story follows a Neo-Nazi who
has obtained a nuclear bomb, and sets a dastardly
plan into motion. Combine this chilling event
with factions in the Russian military launching
a chemical missile attack on a rebellious republic.
As tensions are escalate worldwide pushing nations
to the brink of war, Ryan has to single-handily
uncover the truth and save the world from nuclear
The supporting cast here is mainly one-dimensional.
Morgan Freeman plays a CIA director, but comes off
as the same character he plays in just about every
one of his films. James Cromell is a credible but
uninspired President. It seems everyone is here to
simply take back seat to Ben Affleck.
Still, with all its minor flaws, the movie still
remains a pretty decent Jack Ryan film that falls
just short of being extremely satisfying.
How is the transfer?
Whatever you think of the movie itself, there is
no denying that this is a first-class transfer that
rates up with the very best the format currently has
to offer. What we have here is a vibrant and
absolutely gorgeous transfer that brings out amazing
clarity without a hint of film grain. Images are
razor-sharp with exceptional well-balanced colors.
The utmost concern has been given to picture detail
here, even in the film's many darker scenes. I
just love films that make use of blue filters, and
you'll see some deeply gratifying usage here that
the DVD format reproduces with utmost brilliance.
Though Paramount has been uneven with their catalog
transfers as of late, this transfer reminds you how
well they treat their current fare.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix matches the brilliance
of the picture transfer. There are no limits to
the sound dynamics here as we are treated a pleasing
bass-heavy soundtrack that is well defined across
the individual channels. The rears are active
throughout the mix giving ambience to effect sounds
and even crowd noise at a football game. You would
be surprised, however, to find that the rear channels
are most prominent in the film's quieter moments.
There's a scene right after a nuclear blast where
Affleck is surveying the damage around him. The
soundtrack is virtually silent except for the
chilling sounds of windy fallout that dominate the
rear channels. It is one of those rare moments
when the emotions of a scene are shifted from the
visual and become totally dependant on the audio.
Paramount has put together a reasonably solid
Collector's Edition without skimping on extras.
There are two separate commentaries on
this release. The first is by director Phil
Alden Robinson and cinematographer John Lindley.
The second is by director Phil Alden Robinson
and novelist Tom Clancey. I chose the latter
commentary. Clancey, a little miffed that portions
of his book were ignored, begins by talking a
little about the 1973 incident that is loosely
based on real-life Israeli events. How much
government activity really takes place up at
Mt. Weather, Virginia? Robinson tells you what
he has summated. With each new scene we learn where
each shot was filmed, including a startling discovery
that this was the first U.S. feature allowed to
shoot on the Kremlin grounds. It's kind of neat
to have Clancy in on this documentary. I know
very little about the man, but it seems he really
seems to be an authority on the types of government
air and ground equipment shown in this film. Perhaps
it was a military background that led him to ride
inside Russian T-72 tanks (which he lovingly calls
"death traps"). Clancy doesn't hesitate to point
out the realities of what you are watching compared
to what is movie fabricated. Both Clancy and Robinson
remain low-key through most of the commentary, but
it works rather well.
A cautionary tale divides its featurette
materials into two separate categories. Casting
throws us into a recent interview with Ben Affleck
who describes being approached to do the film after
Harrison Ford had declined upon the project. Affleck
was excited over the prospect of taking the Jack
Ryan character back to his younger days. From
hereoin, we get the usual promotional fare as
cast members that include Freeman, Cromwell, Bates
and Moynahan all do the obligatory sucking up to
each other. Production begins with Producer
Mace Neufeld describing the problems of creating
a new Jack Ryan script before deciding upon going
with Clancy's 1991 book. Director Phil Alden Robinson
briefly talks about the problems of adapting such
a huge book to a 120-page screenplay. It's
interesting to learn how the script originally looked
when it was geared towards Harrison Ford, and how
it changed in order to fit the younger character
played by Affleck. Cast members describe the
difficult conditions of filming in a wintry Montreal
where the temperatures were well below freezing.
In other conditions, the temperature rose to such
blistering heated levels that it caused two
Panavision cameras to melt. There is a certain
amount of debate here concerning the bomb theme
of the film and the events of 9/11. Fortunately
this film takes liberty of some very realistic
could-happen events and ends it with a sense of
hope that perhaps nations can work together and
avoid such catastrophes.
(length: approx. 13 minutes/17 minutes)
I really enjoyed the Visual Effects portion
of this disc -- especially for the fact that it is
broken down into 5 specific major effects sequences.
This bypasses any lengthy dialogue and really brings
you into the meat of the production. Visual Effects
Supervisor Glenn Neufeld and his team carefully take
us through each of these segments that draw attention
to miniatures and pyrotechnics. One of my favorites
of these sequences involves the hospital sequence
where all the live actors were filmed on a soundstage
in front of green screens as wires pull them in
different directions. These elements were combined
digitally with other individual shots to create one
of the film's most memorable moments. Most of these
sequences range in average of 4-8 minutes each.
And yes, Paramount has included the film's
original theatrical trailer.
Despite the absence of Harrison Ford, The Sum
of all Fears contains enough shocks and escalating
suspense to keep audiences entertained right up until
the roll of the ending credits. Pair that up with
Paramount's immaculate transfer and quality
supplements and you have a DVD worth purchasing.
Release Date: October 29, 2002