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The Sum of All Fears

Year: 2002
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Writer: Tom Clancy
Cast: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Philip Baker Hall, Liev Schreiber, Bruce McGill
How anyone can make a faithful screen rendition of a book that would take an eight hour movie to adequately tell is a remarkable feat, and this film stays as true to the original as possible - selecting scenes and set pieces to do the job as best it can - while still spinning a thoughtful political thriller.

We meet Jack Ryan (Affleck) as a young, unknown analyst in the CIA. DCI Cabot (Freeman) selects him as an advisor to the team dealing with a new, apparently hard line Russian President that Ryan knows from a past report.

Meanwhile, an Israeli nuke, shot down in 1973, has been unearthed by Palestinians and sold to European Neo Nazis to bring about the end of Russian and American power by tricking them into starting a war with each other.

First they bomb Chechnya with chemical weapons, then they detonate the device in Baltimore during the superbowl, where the President, Cabot and senior staff are watching the game.

In tatters, the surviving cabinet board Air Force One as the terrorists prompt more incursions across the world they know the US and Soviets will blame each other for. It's up to Ryan, who believes President Nemerov isn't responsible, to convince the powers to stand down while out of the loop and struggling to survive and find his girlfriend in the ruins of Baltimore.

It's a brave move depicting terrorist activity on screen and the first instance of it since September 11. Most of the characters' motivations have been changed in content or focus from the book to suit the much shorter format. Ryan isn't DDCI, Fowler is much more tolerant, Cabot has a pivotal role bringing Ryan in and John Clark is an icy undercover operative.

But the whole thing comes together well and tells a story of the real geopolitical world that seemed run of the mill before anyone believed it would happen in the real world, but is made all the more pertinent now.

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