The Sum of All Fears (2002)
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Anyway, the story is about a disgruntled ex-Nazi, Dressler (Alan Bates) who acquires a nuclear device and plans to instigate a war between the USA and Russia and then take over when the super powers destroy each other. The new Russian President, Nemerov (Ciaran Hinds) is set up by Dressler to be blamed for a nuculear attack which wipes out a large part of Baltimore. U.S. President Fowler (James Cromwell) calls in the CIA headed by William Cabot (Morgan Freeman).
Cabot enlists the aide of historian Jack Ryan (Affleck) because Ryan has done a thorough study on Nemerov. Ryan believes the Russian to be innocent even though all around him believe him guilty. As each side prepares to launch their respective missles, Ryan and CIA Operative John Clark (Liev Schrieber) are busily gathering information and Ryan is racing against the clock to convince Fowler of Nemenov's innocence.
Affleck tries his best to make us forget Harrison Ford but to no avail. He simply cannot be taken seriously as the man who holds the world's fate in his hands. Freeman is excellent as always and Cromwell and Hinds stand out as the two world leaders. Bates makes a nasty villain and Schrieber is good as the mysterious man with a past, Clark. Bridget Moynahan appears as Affleck's love interest and future wife.
The real star of the picture are the special effects. The nuclear explosion is realistic and believable and the attack on the aircraft carrier is equally good.
I hope that in the next Jack Ryan movie, he is portrayed by someone who is at least old enough to shave.
I was very much looking forward to this movie, only to find that for fear of offending Al Queda, the director and screenwriters had substituted some ridiculous plot about German Nazi's and turned the whole thing into a melodramatic hash.
This could have been a GREAT, prophetic, movie. instead it became a silly waste of money and talent. I know Tom Clancy hated the movie, so did I.
I just don't see the point of the most obvious changes from the novel : why using a Neo Nazi fanatic instead of Middle East terrorists? why a very young and single Jack Ryan instead of a married and older character? (Harrison Ford would have been terrific again) Of course a scene aboard Air Force One is more eye candy that a President trapped on Camp David because of a storm and a damaged helicopter. And : where is Ding Chavez??? A character from "Clear and Present Danger", is almost adopted by John Clark after being rescued, and they work as partners.
Some gaps on the story are too difficult to accept : you mean that the ONLY person able to communicate that the bomb was not Russian, is a obscure junior CIA adviser? what about all the agencies and personnel deployed on the explosion site? are they all mute? (On the book, Ryan passes the information but he is not believed by a hostile President and his Nac.Sec. Adviser, *and* a possible power struggle on the Russian government is completely left out).And how come that you can link without any problem from a Palm in the middle of a burned city?
I realistically expected that elements of the massive tome would have to be changed or condensed for the screen version. But so much is changed, and so many critical elements removed, that it hardly resembles its novel origins. As a result I find it difficult to believe that Tom Clancy had much creative control over this effort, though he's credited as "Executive Producer".
First, for some inexplicable reason, this movie jumps away from previous Clancy continuity by completely revamping the character of Jack Ryan. Rather than a middle aged CIA administrator, Ryan is now a young handsome PhD with little Washington experience. Apparently this is to boost the "chick-flick" quotient of this outing, as it adds nothing tangible to the film, and only detracts from the continuity that had been built to this point. There's even a scene where Kathy is asked how "cute" Ryan is on a 1-10 scale, and she says a "12". Ugh! They had time to include this garbage, yet skip vital character development later in the film?
Yet, even worse, this Ryan is the Uber-Ryan. Yes, the man is everywhere, and involved in virtually every action sequence in the film. He finds the bomb lab in Russia (and saves Clark, CLARK, for crying out loud, shouldn't it be the OTHER way around???), races to Baltimore in a helicopter to warn President Fowler(who in yet another huge change is caught in the blast himself) he gets caught in the nuclear blast(and hardly gets his hair mussed, how cliche!), he personally sifts through the rubble of Baltimore for evidence (another inexplicable change, as Denver was the city nuked in the book, then goes on for a cliched confrontation with the terrorists (who are VERY poorly developed character-wise, totally unlike the book) mano y mano in a darkened Baltimore warehouse. Oh, and I almost forgot, there was the obligatory (and oh so overused) Hollywood "death" scene where Ryan (again, Ryan personally) kneels at the bed of Morgan Freeman as he expires in a "tearful" sequence. Yes, it was painful but not in the way intended.
I thought Clancy's books sometimes stretched the believablity of Ryan's capabilities to the breaking point, yet this goes way beyond anything Clancy has previously done. It's Super-Ryan to the rescue, more 007 than distinguished, cerebral CIA analyst, even though he supposedly had little if any experience in espionage, forensics, or any of that. It is very cliched, and very tiresome to watch, at least for anyone that's actually read the books.
One of the best parts of the novel was the realism. Reading it, you really believed that the plot Clancy put in motion could occur. Not this movie. Believable Islamic terrorists were replaced with cartoonish middle-aged white european neo-Nazis who make stock Hitler-loving speeches that any avid movie-goer has heard a million times before. Dr. Evil would love these guys. They even got to kill one of their own rank, ala Dr. Evil, after he experienced the convenient cinematic "crisis of concience". You could see it coming a mile away! I guess that's so we can understand these men are serious and mean "business"
Oh and on the subject of business, since the typical european Neo-Nazi is young, skinheaded, devoted, but not terribly affluent these Nazis were conveniently well-to-do businessmen with the financial assets and experience to put their scheme in motion. Is this Tom Clancy or James Bond? I guess its not "politically correct" to feature the actual type of real world Middle Eastern "gentlemen", with the aid of foreign government sponsorship who even now are striving, again in reality, to make weapons of mass destruction to use against us? I guess its always "safe" to once again bash caucasian conservative-appearing men in business suits. Whatever the reason, its another major plot element from the book down the tubes.
On the subject of the bomb; there was a great deal of detail in the book about the bomb that was completely overlooked in the movie. For example, in the book, the bomb was originally intended to be a multi-stage, ie, HYDROGEN bomb. It fizzled. The original yield was overestimated by twenty fold by military analysts because of reflection of the snow, and other factors. The President's advisors didn't think terrorists could build a multi-stage weapon, thus the suspicion was immediately upon the Russians. It was only after frantic detective work that the true yield of the bomb was discovered, and it put Ryan on the proper track AND gave him leverage to help defuse the situation(no pun intended). It's a common worry that terrorist groups might get ahold of a low yield fission "suitcase" bombs, yet right from the start in the movie no one, including the President, suspects terrorists!
Another fond memory I have of the book is that Clancy took us to the very brink of Armageddon where the US and Russia were nearly in a shooting war because of the misinterpreted size of the bomb, and the tank battle that the German terrorists cause to happen in Berlin. Yet here, the Russians attack and virtually destroy a US nuclear carrier, we bomb a Russian airbase, and we're still standing at that brink. Somehow, I think if events got that far, there'd be no turning back. Clancy seemed to know that when he wrote the book; he seems to have forgotten it here though.
These are just a few of the major problems with this film. The pacing is bad; one minute the bomb is still being constructed, and a few minutes later its already placed in Baltimore and about to explode, with the cliche of Ryan hot on the trail, trying to warn the President. In the book, the bomb catches everyone completely off-guard, but not here, ANOTHER irritating change. There is also very little character development, the President's motivations are poorly understood, the paranoia of Fowler over the new Russian President's motives was poorly developed, etc etc.
Avoid it if you can. I turned the last 5 minutes off, it was so bad.
However, the book is about Arab terrorists performing terrorist acts by means of thermonuclear devices causing the two superpowers to come to the brink of a nuclear war. The movie has replaced this foe with some nonsense story about emerging neo-Nazis wanting to take over the world. This is just utter rubbish. It is obviously a political decision by some asshole not wanting to upset the Arab community so he picks a "safe" bad guy instead. The speech where the head Nazi compares themselves with a virus was just unintelligent writing and painful to watch.
Nazis are obvious bad guys and can be put to good use in movies, just as communists and Muslim terrorists and a whole bunch of other groups, but not when the original material uses another, much more logical, foe. The original foes in the book would have some force behind them in the radical Muslim community that made their plans for world takeover after the superpowers had annihilated each other at least somewhat plausible. If you ignore minor details like that there would really not be much to take over after a barrage of nuclear missiles from USA and Russian of course. But a few twisted old Nazis that sits in hiding in dark rooms cooking together this hair-brained scheme? No way! I am sad to say that whoever asshole that decided to rewrite the main adversary of this movie ruined it totally for me. I am really happy that I never watched it when it came out in the theaters but instead watched it, in a sense "for free", on my Netflix subscription.
The plot is complicated and involves a new Russian leader (Ciaran Hands) who spouts anti-U.S. rhetoric. A Russian chemical attack on Chechnya increases the tension between the two countries. An Israeli atomic bomb is found in the Egyption desert,a relic of the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict. Neo-Nazi terrorists (led by Alan Bates) want to provoke a nuclear conflict between America and Russia. They acquire the bomb from a South African arms dealer and explode it in Baltimore. The U.S. blames the Russians and the two countries are about to commence all-out nuclear war until Ryan works out what is happening and it all ends happily. The message is that the new Russian leaders are reasonable men signifying that the world has moved on from the Commie bashing flicks of the 1980s.
The idea of a terrorist nuclear attack is topical, but unfortunately the Neo-Nazi villains seem very 1970s. The film has good character actors in supporting roles (e.g., Liev Schrieber, James Cromwell). I much prefer Afflek's Ryan to that of the 52 year-old Harrison Ford who by 1994's Clear and Present Danger seemed too old and surly for the role.
The plot involves neo-Nazi's who obtain an Israeli nuclear bomb (from an Israeli plane that was shot down in the 1973 Yom Kippur war) and use Russian nuclear scientists to refurbish it, and then ship it to Baltimore (just in time for the Super Bowl) to try to blow up the President of the US.
The Nazi's goal is to trick the US into thinking the Russians carried out the attack, hopefully starting a nuclear war which then allows the neo-Nazi's to do what exactly? Take over the smoldering remains of the earth? The movie never adequately explains the rationale behind their actions, since their actions are completely self-defeating. A nuclear exchange between the US and Russia would destroy most of the Western World, leaving precious little left for the Nazi's to rule over. In the novel, Islamic terrorists were the bad guys, which makes sense since they don't care if they live or die and because the Middle East would be relatively unaffected by a nuclear war between Russia and the US. Changing the villains to Nazi's sends this movie into fantasy-land.
Ben Affleck is wrong as Jack Ryan -- he's just too much of a sarcastic punk. You can't buy him as the CIA analyst turned action hero. The rest of the cast is good, but most of the characters are complete idiots. Its hard to believe that the President of the US and the Premier of Russia wouldn't talk to each other over the telephone during an international crisis, but in this movie they e-mail each other over AOL like a couple of adulterers.
According to the trivia, Harrison Ford and Wolfgang Peterson (Director of Air Force One) turned down the opportunity to participate in this fiasco. They were smart to do so since there was nothing to gain but scorn for having any part in this horrible, horrible movie.
"The Sum of All Fears" is even more powerful in this day and age, but nevertheless, it stands nowhere near as great as the novel, which is usually the case with films taken from books. In the following I will point out some differences that weren't crucial to my opinion on the film, but just interesting.
The film is a prequel to the other Jack Ryan films, while the novel was a sequel to the other books. In the book, a lost Israeli nuclear warhead is picked up by Arabs some twenty years after the war it was lost in. In the film, a modern-age Hitler is attempting to begin turmoil between Russia and the U.S. with the nuke -- there are no arabs. Also in the novel, the way the bomb was sneaked into the superbowl was much more interesting than the method they used in the film. Also, in the book, Morgan Freeman's character was a dumb man who hid throughout the novel. In the film he's a hero.
There's countless other things that don't really matter, but still made me a bit disappointed in the film.
The film was in no way awful, and is the best Tom Clancy movie to date, but it's still not as good as the book.
3.5/5 stars --
Are you kidding me? How ridiculously politically correct is that? If I had known this beforehand, I would have boycotted this insulting movie, instead of wasting money on it.
Also, at least to me, Harrison Ford will always be "Jack Ryan," not some second-rate pretty- boy actor like Ben Affleck.
The only redeeming qualities to this film were the nice cinematography and the awesome sound when the big bomb went off. If you have a surround sound, that scene will rock your room. Too bad, they didn't blow up this film before it was released.
After Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, this was a miserable followup to what I understand is a great Tom Clancy novel. It was tedious, boring and, amazingly, full of bad language, unlike its predecessor movies. In short, it stank. The script was terrible and the plot so unbelievably stupid that it was painful to watch. The special effects were laughable CGIs. I have not read the novel, but I doubt very seriously it was as asinine as this screenplay was. Skip this one!
The story was fairly captivating however, Cromwell was good to watch as always and Morgan Freeman did his best given the role Overall worth a rent but probably not a buy guys. Catch it on TV if you can and you will be probably entertained for that night.
How the movies fare so far.. Patriot Games.. acceptable. Hunt For Red October.. One of my favorites,even if different from the book, it basically got it right. Clear and Present Danger.. that's where things really started to jump the track, and fiction crept its way into an already fictionalized story.
But this one... this one is truly a horrible horrible event for literate people the world over. I won't list every detail changed and mutilated from a once great story, but suffice it to say this movie is basically in name only a representation of the book. All other details are conveniently changed or overlooked.
I understand that Clancy books are involved and takes some effort/intelligence to keep with the complex plots, but they always come to a great point, and leave me wanting more. This movie does not. If someone took my work and did an end-round with it like they did with this waste of film, I'd be homicidal.
Hate isn't a strong enough word. Vile isn't a strong enough word.
Then to cast my literary hero with Ben Affleck just pours more salt into a gaping wound in the side of my head. What a crock.
Pearl Harbor was a totally ruined movie which inconveniently had a historic battle (which I'm sure the veterans of were extremely interested in seeing done in modern effects! or did we forget that this should have been more of a tribute to THEM) interrupt everyones love lives, but at least the Japanese still attacked for Christ sake. This movie doesn't even go that far.
The real fun is how many clueless people say "wow, what a great movie" and don't even begin to realize what they're really missing by not PICKING UP A DAMN BOOK EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE!!!
Hollywood, continue to play down to the lowest common denominator if you must, but leave the worthwhile stuff in life alone for those of us that can still read. Stop making crappy movies "based" on great books.
There's more to it but, basically, that's the plot. As it is, it's pretty good. It may be a little disturbing, however, to some people after 9/11. If this had been released before then it would have been seen as just another Cold War movie. It's very well-done but no great shakes...the attack scenes are frightening to watch.
Affleck is very good as Ryan. He's young, good-looking, intelligent and Affleck's low-key acting fits the Ryan role like a glove. Morgan Freeman shows up (again) as a mentor to Ryan. Nothing against Freeman, but hasn't he played this role once too often? Also John Cromwell is excellent as the president (completely covering his British accent).
So, an enjoyable drama...unless 9/11 really hit you close to home. If it did, avoid this.
In the spirit of kindness and compassion, I will save you the high price of movie admission and tell you in no uncertian terms: Don't Bother.
Here is a spoiler, although it really isn't a spoiler. If you've watched the previews, then the plot is already rotten--for they tell you all there is to know about what happens.
Here we go:
A group of fascists buy a nuclear bomb on the black market so they can use it to provoke the United States to attack Russia in some weird hope that a major war between two nuclear superpowers will lead the masses of people to become goose-stepping Hitler lovers. So they decide to set off the nuclear bomb in Baltimore during a football game that the president is attending.
The president gets word of this and leaves the stadium just in time. Even though he is still in the city and his limo was knocked over by a thermonuclear blast, he miraculously escapes unharmed. Morgan Freeman, who was in the same limo however, dies for some reason. (as an aside, the arms trader who found the bomb dies of radiation poisoning, but the guy who buys it doesn't---this is a really strange weapon)
Ben Affleck, also in Baltimore and equally unharmed by the giant radioactive explosion, tries to tell the president that the Russians are not to blame--it's the Neo-Nazis.
30 seconds before the US launches warheads at Russia, the president calls it off.
The Russian and American president become friends and sign a treaty banning nukes forever. Everyone is happy happy, Affleck gets married and life is grand.
I never read the book this is based on, and I'm not a Tom Clancy fan. I came into this movie expecting to hate it, because I have hated all the other films in the Jack Ryan series. They were too dry and technical, lacking immediacy or emotion and they felt more like lectures on the way government works and how the military operates than movies. Those films were made for Tom Clancy fans. The sum of all fears was made for a different audience, which is unfortunate since it is based on one of his novels. There is no doubt that it crosses the line into fantasy several times for dramatic effect. Things happen that probably wouldn't happen in real life. People do things that are impossibly heroic and unrealistic. I'm convinced this is why Clancy fans hate this adaptation. For me, these traits (considered flaws by many people) helped free the movie from the constraints of absolute realism, allowing it to become more poetic and powerful than it ever could be otherwise.
Director Phil Alden Robinson deserves most of the praise for this film. He's a new name for me, but looking at his filmography, it was interesting to see that he was the writer and director for field of dreams, another film that I totally loved. He was a very odd choice to helm this film, because field of dreams is a bizarre movie where reality and fantasy meet head on. It's an ultra surreal American fairy tale. It's like a happy David Lynch film, or a Luis Buñuel film with a wholesome center. This is not the kind of director you would normally choose to make a movie like the sum of all fears. The clash between the ultra realism of Clancy's material and Robinson's willingness to forgo realism in favor of dreamy fairy tale lyricism creates a wonderful sense of vibrancy that I would never have anticipated.
After seeing the sum of all fears, I am now convinced that Robinson will go on to make a huge name for himself. He is a truly gifted director with an incredible ability to communicate through images. I can't wait to see his next film. If field of dreams is any indication, he is just good a writer as he is as a director, and I am excited to see what other sorts of ideas he might produce.
The movie also has tremendous performances by Morgan Freeman, and (surprisingly) Ben Affleck. He's way to young to play Jack Ryan, so he doesn't even try. The Jack Ryan in this movie is a reinvented character. He's basically a young guy, with the mentality of an idealist, working his way up in the CIA, while trying to juggle a bachelors social life. For me, he works in this film and he plays that kind of character perfectly.
The bottom line is this: If you love Tom Clancy and you've read every one of his books, you're probably going to hate this movie. If you have never read the book, and have no real interest in Clancy's work, you'll probably at least enjoy it. If your like me, and you don't mind films that let drama interfere with rationality, you'll probably love it.
Stirring outing filled with emotion , suspense , chills , twisted intrigue and extraordinary nail-biting action scenes . This film is a prequel to the others in the Jack Ryan series . The 'Harrison Ford' films are direct follow-ups to The hunt for Red October (1990) despite the recast of Alec Baldwin's role . Nevertheless, in this film we see Jack Ryan meet John Clark, something which also happens in Clear and present danger (1994) . Therefore this film might be best understood as a reboot of the Jack Ryan series . Interesting screenplay plenty of twists and thrills by Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne . However , the filmmaker changed the villains from Islamic extremists , in the novel , to Neo-Nazis ; this was done because prior to the 11 September 2001 attacks, he did not believe Arab terrorists could plausibly accomplish all that was necessary for the plot to work on film . Good production design , in fact , the CIA scenes were filmed at the actual CIA headquarters ; this was one of the times the CIA had ever done such a thing . And this was the first American film unit to enter the Kremlin , though Red Heat (1988) was the first American unit to film in Moscow . The spectacular "Super Bowl" scene takes place in Baltimore , the two teams playing in the game are portrayed by the Toronto Argonauts and the Montreal Alouettes . Real U. S. Marines along with two Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters were used for the sequence of rescuing Fowler from the wrecked motorcade . The picture has a very good support cast who gives excellent performances such as James Cromwell as President Fowler , Bruce McGill as National Security Adviser , John Beasley as General Lasseter , Philip Baker Hall as Defense Secretary , Joseph Sommer as Senator , Michael Byrne , Liev Schreiber , Alan Bates , Sven-Ole Thorsen , Ron Rifkin , Colm Feore and special mention to Ciaran Hinds as Russia President . Spectacular musical score fitting to action and suspense by maestro veteran Jerry Goldsmith . Colorful and atmospheric cinematography by John Lindley . The picture is well directed by Phil Alden Robinson , though Philip Noyce, director of previous entries, was offered to direct but turned it down and Wolfgang Petersen was also offered the chance to direct but declined.
This blockbuster is an entertaining adaptation of the novel by Tom Clancy , companion to ¨The hunt for Red October¨ by John MacTiernan with Alec Balwin and Sean Connery , followed by ¨Patriot games¨ (1992) by Philip Noyce with Harrison Ford taking over the role of Ryan from Alec Baldwin and again ¨Clear and present danger¨(1994) by Philip Noyce with Harrison Ford and Anne Archer . Then Harrison Ford dropped out of reprising the role of Jack Ryan because he and director Phillip Noyce could not agree on the script and Noyce ended up dropping out of the film as well. And finally , Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) by Kenneth Brannagh with Chris Pine as Jack Ryan , Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner .
Why, oh why, did the film maker choose Nazi's over Arabs as the villains - the real Nazi's need walkers to get around, they are so old. The new neo Nazi is so laughable as an international threat... Rejects from Jerry Springer launching a complex plan to steal a nuclear warhead!!! Hah! If you listen to the comment track on the DVD, Clancy snorts and laughs when this topic is brought up; it is obvious what he thinks about the plausibility of Nazi terrorism. I got the impression that it was the director's wishy washy smooshy PC politics that motivated this lame change in the plot - if he had problems with the plot he should have passed over the project, not wimpify it as he did.
Finally, the choice of Affleck for Ryan! This casting choice bewilders... he seriously lacks the gravitas of either of the previous Ryan choices. They should have used Liev Schreiber who plays John Clark for the Ryan role instead - when they are on the screen together it is so obvious who one follows and takes seriously on screen, Schreiber just blows Affleck away. This lousy choice of leading man ranks up there with casting Lazenby in the Bond series.
Lame, lame, lame. I hope they just put a bullet in the series rather than use the same creative team again.
I found at least six major holes in the plot large enough to drive a space shuttle through. Now, don't misunderstand. I'm perfectly happy to suspend my disbelief at the movie theatre door in the case of obvious fantasies like Harry Potter or Shrek. I'm even willing to accept the notion that James Bond films are essentially cartoons no more related to reality than an episode of the old Batman TV show. However, when a movie purports to have some connection to the reality of current affairs, and it turns out to be no more realistic than the Itchy and Scratchy Show I get annoyed.
Let's list the plot holes: 1. The Israeli plane gets shot down and the bomb doesn't explode on impact. That's just nuts. Between the impact and the heat generated by the explosions of the engines, the bomb must detonate. If you deny that, you are denying simple engineering. I'll accept that in an episode of Lost in Space but not in a mega-budget film written by the great guru of espionage flicks.
2. The authors think the Israelis won't wonder what happened to their atomic missile? That's just nuts. An Israeli plane crashes into the Golan and the Israelis let the missile hang around for 30 years. Sorry. The Israelis know where their missiles are and they know that their neighbors would be happy to use even a grain of plutonium to harm them. This just defies reality.
3. An atomic missile is smuggled out of Haifa Harbor by neo-Nazis? That's just loony. Now, the Mossad isn't as good as its press releases and is certainly riddled with KGB double-agents but it is absolutely inconceivable for any Israeli to be involved with Nazis no matter what the financial reward. There was this event in the 40s called the Holocaust. Perhaps, Mr. Clancy has heard of it. Especially after 9/11, the Israelis are extremely careful about what goes on in their state. Give them credit for being at least a little smarter than a doorknob.
4. Ben Affleck gets into the Pentagon with Morgan Freeman's ID? The City of Baltimore has just been destroyed by a nuclear weapon and the Pentagon is easier to get into than the Z Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem, North Carolina? In the immortal words of Homey the Clown, 'No, I don't think so!'
5. A nuclear weapon gets smuggled into the US. That can certainly happen but you really need some sort of serious cover. As Abe Rosenthal, the former editor of the New York Times, has said,'If you want to smuggle a nuclear weapon into the US, put it in a bale of marajuana.' The notion that there is anybody in the Customs Service in a position of authority who would allow a nuclear weapon into the States without a lot of money changing hands and without leaving himself the opportunity to get far out of harm's way is farcical at best.
6. Ben Affleck goes into the middle of a radiation zone without any protection and suffers no ill effects, not even the loss of one strand of hair. 'Nuff said.
7. This last criticism is a general criticism of Tom Clancy stories. No rational person who has lived through the last decade or so in the US can possibly believe that the CIA is even minimally competent much less the repository of virtually all wisdom as depicted here or in any other Tom Clancy novel. CIA stands for 'Clueless in America.' Since 1990, we have seen the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the bombing of the World Trade Center, attacks on two embassies in Africa, the emergence of terrorist training bases in Afghanistan, Sudan, the Phillipines and G-d only knows where else, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Aldrich Ames case, the Robert Hansson case, BCCI, the bombing of our troops in the Khobar Towers, the USS Cole attack, and the suicide bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Maxwell Smart and Larabee on a three week bender could do a better job.
One can only hope that Morgan Freeman and James Cromwell were well paid for having this cinematic disaster on their resumes.
The real story is meant to revolve around how the characters react to what happens (according to each's preconceptions and personal shortcomings), and the larger ramifications those reactions have to the government, the country, the world. The heroism results from the actions taken by a desperate, broken man who acts with complete personal disregard ... to save the very system that has deliberately broken him. The psychological effect of the key moment in this story, and the desperation that ensues in its aftermath are non-existent in this movie.
Do yourself a favor – read the books, in order. Then realize that they were written before 9/11, before biological attack scares, stock market/cyber-attacks, before Iraq, before the current tension with Iran, before what doesn't seem to be too far off into the horizon with China. Starting with Clear and Present Danger, it will seriously freak you out to see that, some 20 years ago, Clancy predicted many of the traumatic major world events that have occurred in the past decade (and may yet be unfolding in the near future). Not that I walk around wearing a tin foil hat, but seriously, it's freaky.
OK, I guess this is a "the book is so much better than the movie" rant after all.
So my recommendation is see the movie then read the book, I have found that to be true with most of Clancy's work. I guess a movie just can't handle the whole story.