As Tom Clancy movies go, "The Sum of All Fears" seems to fit the
bill. Starring a name-brand cast such as Morgan Freeman, Ben Affleck,
James Cromwell and others, it's yet another war-thriller set in modern
times, that strives to give a haunting and apparently realistic view of
what might happen if a nuclear war broke out between the US and Russia.
"What?! The US and RUSSIA?", you ask? "Isn't that sort of old news
now?" Well, yes. But, don't worry, there's a twist of modern-day reality
here. What's more, it's entertaining.
There are two aspects to this movie that intrigue me. The first is taking
note on how times have changed in our culture: the original plot told a
story on how Arabian terrorists find an old Israeli nuclear warhead from
a fighter shot down in 1973, during one of the Israeli- Palestinians
conflicts. The terrorist detonate it at the Super Bowl, causing an
immediate escalation of nuclear retaliatory strikes with Russia,
which was mistakenly thought to be responsible for the act. However,
in consideration of not offending the majority of Arabs that are not
terrorists, the villains had to be replaced by a group not represented
by so many people. Neo-Nazis. That was easy; who are you going to
offend? Sure, Arab terrorists would be more believable, but Neo-Nazis
are less controversial. Unfortunately for the movie, this defused the
impact of the villain. Sure, the conflict between the US and Russia was
believable, but they weren't the villain - without a more plausible and
threatening bad guy, too much steam was let out of the cooker.
The second aspect of the movie that intrigues me is that they depicted a
nuclear explosion going off without overly exploiting it as a major plot
point. In an odd way, the movie is good, clean fun for the war-enthusiast
in your household. It's intelligent for the "action film" genre; it
doesn't have stupid dialog, gags or convenient escapes to help the plot
move along. Even Jack Ryan, the major character in all Clancy novels,
is portrayed coyly by Ben Affleck, and no one came out looking like the
testosterone-filled hero. That said, it's not a serious examination of
international politics, nuclear policy, or reflective of any governmental
figure in office today. To that extent, the movie is charmingly dated -
if it were 1985. I'm sure it would have rivaled "War Games" at the time..
In summary, the movie did a great job at completely distancing itself from
reality, while still maintaining a balance of realism and entertainment
at the same time.