The Sum of All Fears - PG-13

Best for: Mature adults

The plot: When the President of Russia dies, Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck), an expert analyst on Russian affairs, is called in by the Director of Central Intelligence, Bill Cabot (Morgan Freeman) to give his insight and opinions on the new Russian President. On the surface President Nemerov (Ciaran Hinds) seems to be a man of peace but when a nuclear bomb levels Chechnya, the blame quickly turns on the new leader. Ryan is convinced otherwise and along with an undercover agent (Liev Schreiber) the two discover a terrorist plot designed to pit the two nations against each other. Part of that plot involves the threat of germ warfare so when a bomb explodes in a Baltimore stadium during a football game and President Fowler (James Cromwell) is almost killed, immediately war is declared. Time is running out as Jack desperately attempts to get the right information to President Fowler and his cabinet before they retaliate and a world war begins. Alan Bates, Philip Baker Hall, Bruce McGill, Bridget Moynahan.

The good: Applause, applause for the first adult hit of the summer! This Tom Clancy action/thriller delivers on every level, not only entertaining but creating a thought provoking reminder that what was once classified as the "unthinkable" could indeed happen. I enjoyed everything about this movie and for a change, was thrilled to see something written for adult audiences to enjoy. From an interesting and well-written plot that requires your undivided attention, to special effects that depict the horror of a terrorist attack, to a talented cast with characters you can root for and just the right amount of subtle humor, this phenomenal drama is a chilling reminder of a plot that hits so painfully close to the heart of America. It can no longer can be considered as "just entertainment" but eerily and sadly could be a life-imitates art-warning.

After seeing this movie I can't think of many people who would willingly want to be in a position to have to make the kinds of life or death decisions Cromwell’s presidential character has to make. That plot point alone is one of the most sobering and profound elements to the story and in the light of 9/11, a reverent reminder of the awesome responsibility and heavy decisions our President has to make.

As Affleck’s acting ability matures with age and better roles, his range of characters continues to position him as one of the more talented leading men of today. I also like the fact that the scriptwriters and director Phil Alden Robinson chose not to make the love relationship between Ryan and his doctor girlfriend (Moynahan) a main focus of the story (reminding us of a 007 character) but instead modestly used their sexual relationship as a humorous plot point to lighten the story. I love Morgan Freeman. He’s just one of those actors who commands the screen and effortlessly exudes intelligence, competence and trust in the characters he portrays. He and Affleck were perfect together and created the necessary chemistry needed to make the audience care about the characters. I particularly enjoyed the moving soundtrack that emotionally steers the movie from the beginning Symphony and Slovak Philharmonic chorus number, to the unusual rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, and an interesting ending where certain characters were "done away with" in Godfather fashion to the tune of Nessun Dorma from Turandot.

It is one of those movies filled with realistic and minuscule details that add to this multi-layered story (I couldn’t resist checking a website reference mason_ job@netscape.com to see if it was real--it was.)

Although there are of course loopholes and dramatic plot points critics will find fault with, overall the entertainment factor far outweighs the need for political correctness and I can’t think of when a movie like this one had more political relevance. Watching a movie imitate life concerning the fragile state of global affairs and realizing how a nuclear disaster is only a terrorist-act away brings one thing clearly into focus, that the sum of all fears may truly be how America will react if faced with a similar situation.

The Bad: My only complaint about this excellent movie is an age-old argument that for some reason Hollywood feels they need to throw unnecessary profanity (especially religious profanity) into scenes that really don’t need it. Likewise there are a couple of sexually suggestive scenes of Jack and his girlfriend of only a few dates, in bed together (no nudity or sex is shown). Those scenes play off the old fear-of-commitment angle and are used as sort of a humorous plot point and while I don’t condone the morality of it, I’m glad there were no explicit scenes to detract from an otherwise brilliant movie.

Offensive language and behavior: Lots of it. Hearing the President of the United States cursing God’s name at an intense moment of crisis isn’t exactly comforting.

Sexual situations: There are a couple of scenes that show Jack and his girlfriend in bed but no sexual situations take place and the two are in their underwear (no nudity).

Violence: Several people are shown shot in head, a man’s throat is cut, blown up, or injured with burns and torn flesh shown.

Parental advisory: This is clearly a movie made for the adult audience but your mature teenagers who enjoy political thrillers will enjoy it as well.

Final take: I enjoyed every minute of this exciting story and applaud the approach Director Phil Alden Robinson took with Clancy’s thriller. Aside from the excellent entertainment value I equally believe that this kind of movie serves a social purpose in reminding us all of how precarious the global climate is at the moment and how precious the gift of freedom and peace on truly is.