A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Oh, for the innocent days when a movie like "The Sum of All Fears" could be enjoyed as a "thriller." In these dark times, it is not a thriller but a confirmer, confirming our fears that the world is headed for disaster. The film is about the detonation of a nuclear device in an American city. No less an authority than Warren Buffet recently gave a speech in which he flatly stated that such an event was "inevitable." Movies like "Black Sunday" could exorcise our fears, but this one works instead to give them form.
To be sure, Tom Clancy's horrifying vision has been footnoted with the obligatory Hollywood happy ending, in which world war is averted and an attractive young couple pledge love while sitting on a blanket in the sunshine on the White House lawn. We can walk out smiling, unless we remember that much of Baltimore is radioactive rubble. Human nature is a wonderful thing. The reason the ending is happy is because we in the audience assume we'll be the two on the blanket, not the countless who've been vaporized.
The movie is based on another of Clancy's fearfully factual stories about Jack Ryan, the CIA agent, this time a good deal younger than Harrison Ford's Ryan in "A Clear and Present Danger" and played by Ben Affleck. It follows the ancient convention in which the hero goes everywhere important and personally performs most of the crucial actions, but it feels less contrived because Clancy has expertise about warfare and national security issues; the plot is a device to get us from one packet of information to another.
The story: In 1973, an Israeli airplane carrying a nuclear bomb crashes in Syria. Many years later, the unexploded bomb is dug up, goes on the black market, and is sold to a right-wing fanatic who has a theory: "Hitler was stupid. He fought America and Russia, instead of letting them fight one another." The fanatic's plan is to start a nuclear exchange between the superpowers, after which Aryan fascists would pick up the pieces.