The Sum of All Fears

Leave your disbelief at home and enter a fantasy world a little bit closer to reality than most of us would like...

When I don't carp about the narrative logic or continuity of a film, it just may be I liked it well enough I was willing to suspend my disbelief. Enter the new Jack Ryan in another Tom Clancy adaptation, "The Sum of All Fears."

Let me carp first:

Carp #1: The new Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) is decades younger than Alec Baldwin ("Hunt for Red October") and Harrison Ford ("Patriot Games," etc.), the previous Ryans, yet this thriller is set in 2002.

Carp #2: A nuclear blast causes serious damage to Baltimore, reminiscent of 9/11, some might say too soon after that horror.

Let me counter-carp:

#1: I can accept Ben Affleck as a young Jack Ryan, whose destiny is to bumble like Clark Kent but ultimately save the world as a CIA agent. Even if Ryan is too early in his career to be given this responsibility, I am drawn to his intelligence (Ph.D. in history) and his integrity (he is in love with an accomplished woman).

#2: Director Phil Alden Robinson ("Field of Dreams") has edited out most of the blast and its effects, almost to the point of disbelief; as my WCBE partner, Dr. Clay Lowe, points out, there is also an unbelievable media absence from this monumental event. I suspended my disbelief.

The notion that the leaders of the U.S. and Russia could get to the point of sending missiles and planes in a standoff is more believable now than in the cold war of early Clancy. Cell phones and the Internet ratchet up the tension by increasing the suspicion endemic to talk between politicians and spies. While "Black Sunday" had a similar super bowl setting, "Sum" has the technology to accelerate the fears of the major players.

Although Affleck is still maturing as an actor, veterans like James Cromwell as the president, Morgan Freeman as the CIA director, Liev Schreiber as an agent/assassin, and Alan Bates as a bad guy are utterly competent actors who make you forget Affleck's inexperience.

So leave your disbelief at home and enter a fantasy world a little bit closer to reality than most of us would like.