Phil Alden Robinson’s 2002 film “The Sum of All Fears” reboots the Jack Ryan film series while adapting Tom Clancy’s novel of the same title. The story focuses on a younger Jack Ryan who learns of a Neo-Nazi plan to trigger a nuclear war between the United States and Russia. The terrorists successfully detonate a nuclear weapon in Baltimore, though Jack realizes it’s a black-market weapon and not of Russian origin and works to prevent the superpowers from going to war. Ben Affleck, twenty-nine at the time of filming, portrays the younger Jack Ryan while Bridget Moynahan appears as Cathy Mueller (Ryan’s future wife). Beyond the characters of Jack Ryan and Catherine Muller-Ryan, the film also features John Clark, previously played by Willem Dafoe and her portrayed by Live Schreiber. Other additions to the cast include Morgan Freeman as William Cabot, the Director of the CIA, James Cromwell as President Fowler, Ron Rifkin as the Secretary of State, Bruce McGill as Gene Revell, and Ciarán Hinds as Alexander Nemerov.
The film changes some plot points, portraying the terrorists as neo-fascists rather than Arab nationalists. The writers changed the plot prior to September 11th, but many misunderstood this after the fact, though the release date was pushed into 2002 due to the content. Unfortunately, the climactic finale was a little too close to current events when the movie came out and is still rough to watch, resembling as it does “The Day After.” In other changes, where the original novel focused on the Soviet Union, this film substitutes modern Russia. Many of Clancy’s novels took place during the Cold War, but the films – with the exception of “Hunt for Red October” – take place in contemporary settings, which can lead to some odd scenes. Finally, the climax, in which terrorists target the President at a football game, recalls Thomas Harris’s 1975 novel “Black Sunday,” which John Frankenheimer adapted as a film in 1977. The film is well-made, but was doomed by timing. As such, this attempt to reboot the Jack Ryan series went nowhere despite positive box office returns and there was a second reboot 12 years later.