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I think that it was an intriguing idea for Paramount to reinvent the Jack Ryan franchise by casting a younger actor, then taking the character back to the beginning of his career, while keeping the timeframe of their latest movie very much in the present. Recasting this well-known character doesn’t exactly set a precedent, since the torch had already been passed from Alec Baldwin to Harrison Ford (whom author Tom Clancy reportedly felt was too old for the role). Ben Affleck proves to be a good choice to portray a somewhat green and slightly naive Jack Ryan, who finds himself thrust into the middle of an escalating political situation which could lead to a nuclear confrontation that could obliterate the superpowers.

THE SUM OF ALL FEARS ($30) opens with a historical flashback, but then segues into some political turmoil in new post-communist era Russia. When the old president dies unexpectedly, his replacement turns out to be an unknown quantity, which has certain U.S. government officials worried. As it turns out, only person with any expertise on the new Russian President is a young CIA analyst named Jack Ryan, who finds his services greatly in demand by CIA director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman). Although the U.S. and Russia are in the process of reducing their nuclear arsenals, both countries stockpiles are still enough to destroy each other many times over. Things take interesting turn when a recovered nuclear weapon falls into the hands of a group of neo-nazis, who intend to use the nuke to manipulate the United States and Russia into destroying each other. The solid cast of THE SUM OF ALL FEARS also features James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Bates, Ciarán Hinds, Philip Baker Hall, Ron Rifkin, Bruce McGill and Josef Sommer.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made THE SUM OF ALL FEARS available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Without a doubt, this is a phenomenal looking transfer. The image is crisp, clean and richly detailed, which places this disc at the demonstration quality level. Colors are rendered with excellent saturation, no signs of noise or smearing and attractive looking flesh tones. Some of the cinematography gets a bit artistic, which pushes the color scheme outside the realm natural looking- but it is all reproduced flawlessly. Blacks are completely inky, while the contrasts ranges between very smooth and harsh, depending on the photographic style. Dark sequences are rendered with excellent shadow detail. Digital compression artifacts are well camouflaged on this dual layer DVD.

THE SUM OF ALL FEARS comes with a really great Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The sound mix utilizes the entire soundstage exceedingly well to create real sonic environments, plus the sound designers recognize its potential for dramatic impact. All of the channels are fully active, especially the rears that provide a great deal of ambient sound, in addition to forceful directional effects. Dialogue reproduction is both clean and completely natural. The bass channel is forceful, without ever sounding artificially exaggerated. Jerry Goldsmith’s terrific score is rendered distinctly and with excellent musical fidelity. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, along with English subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a goodly number of supplements. THE SUM OF ALL FEARS comes with two separate running audio commentaries, the first features director Phil Alden Robinson and cinematographer John Lindley, while the second includes Robinson again and author Tom Clancy. Both commentaries are quite interesting, although the track that features Clancy is certainly the most intriguing. Clancy basically points out every place the movie differs from his book, as well as likely scenarios of what might happen in similar real life political situations.

Moving on to the section entitled A Cautionary Tale, these supplements are divided into two programs. Casting runs thirteen minutes and looks at choosing the actors to fill the film’s roles and how everything changed by having Ben Affleck portray a younger version of the Jack Ryan Character. Production runs seventeen minutes and looks at the logistics of making this movie in the harsh winter cold Montreal and the extreme heat of the desert. The supplements also look at the film’s visual effects and breaks down five individual sequences into their components. I really like to see how the "man behind the curtain" does his magic and dissection of these five special effects sequences is very interesting to watch. A theatrical trailer closes out the DVD's supplements.

THE SUM OF ALL FEARS is an entertaining political thriller. The movie may not be Tom Clancy’s book, as the author is quick to point out in his commentary, but I found it to be quite enjoyable. Paramount’s DVD edition looks and sounds fantastic, so anyone interested in THE SUM OF ALL FEARS going to want to pick up a copy of the DVD.



The Sum of All Fears (2002)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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