Friday, May 31, 2002

The Sum of All Fears (IMDB) (Netflix)
My frustration stemming from this latest Tom Clancy thriller exists on two levels: the flawed, creaky and politically wussified plot and the all-too-vivid reminder, particularly given the real-world revelations of the past week or so, of the government's inability to communicate vital information in a timely manner.

Calista Flockhart's beau Harrison Ford has been traded in for a younger Jack Ryan model (no doubt Ford's ex-wife thinks that's fitting), Ben Affleck, as the CIA analyst who, straight out of The Hunt for Red October, is the only American with 20-20 insight into the Russians, who are being set up by some Neo-Nazis (a convenient oil-free villain) as the patsy for a successful nuclear explosion in the U.S. (no spoiler here, check the trailer). Affleck discovers some key information that even the FBI would have passed along, but of course he can't, which escalates everything into a cliffhanger that Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove handled more courageously.

The above rant is mostly a time-delayed detonation of my own that's occurring while thinking through this review--there are plenty of things to enjoy, like Affleck being a worthy successor to the Ryan mantle, Morgan Freeman gives his usual mensch-like performance (he badly needs some roles that exercise more of his skills, however), Liev Schreiber adds some depth to wet-work spook Mr. Clark. Director Phil Alden Robinson manages to give this Clancy episode a much artier look than its predecessors (Field of Dreams is his sole other film of note--the "directed by Phil Alden Robinson" tag line in the commercials made it sound like he was a Francis Ford Coppola-esque auteur, which is ironic, since he clearly went to school on Coppola's montage technique for the ending). The safety tip for this one is: go ahead and see the movie, just don't reflect on it later.