Making the Grades
Following the events of September 11, fiction and reality seem to blur in this film adaptation of Tom Clancy's novel, The Sum of All Fears. Ben Affleck takes on the role of a young Jack Ryan (previously played by Alec Baldwin in Hunt for Red October and Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger).
Still wet behind the ears in his new job as a Deputy Director at the CIA, Ryan is an analyst with a nose for historical facts. Consequently, when Russia's ruling leader dies and is succeeded by Nemerov (Ciaran Hinds), the researcher is called in by presidential assistant Bill Cabot (Morgan Freeman) to brief the U.S. government.
Meanwhile, European neo-Nazi terrorists led by a disgruntled reformer (Alan Bates) are combing for supporters at underground gatherings. After obtaining a nuclear bomb from Middle East mercenaries, they plan to frame Russia for an attack on American soil that will pit the superpowers against one another.
In company with Agent John Clark (Liev Schreiber), Ryan uncovers the threads of the plot and races to stop it. But as tensions rise between U.S. President Fowler (James Cromwell) and his advisors (Ron Rifkin, Philip Baker Hall, Bruce McGill), the cool-headed historian intercedes in governmental affairs in an attempt to avert escalating tempers that could lead to world war.
While this movie may have started out as a political thriller aimed as summer audiences, Clancy's almost prophetic depiction of a North American attack has spawned panel discussions and special screenings for Washington insiders who deal with security measures, according to a studio press release. But for viewers still haunted by the images of 9-11, the film contains an unsettling realism along with execution-like killings, bloody injuries and numerous deaths.
In an international world that demands the high-speed movement of people and products, our sense of security may have been shaken following the tragic attack. But The Sum of All Fears underscores the need for trust (in this case between world leaders) and levelheaded decisions during times of crisis to avoid adding more fuel to the fire.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Sum Of All Fears.
National leaders carry incredible responsibilities when making decisions for their countries and citizens. Should one person be afforded so much power?
How did Ryan’s knowledge of the new Russian president affect his belief about the leader’s involvement in the attack? How important is trust in international relationships, especially when dealing with crisis?
Even though we live in an increasingly connected world, how do language barriers, cultural differences, personal attitudes and ideals contribute to continuing lapses in solving global problems and initiating peace?
This movie is based on a book written over a decade ago, and the movie was well into production prior to the September 11 disaster. Yet in promoting this film, do you think Hollywood is taking advantage of a tragic situation? What criteria should be used when making a movie about such events?