The Sum of All Fears


Recently, global stock markets reacted negatively to what is happening around the globe.

Young protesters remain bravely on the streets of Hong Kong while their communist oppressors restrain themselves from repeating Tiananmen Square. Ukraine remains on a knife’s edge. The USA and its Western allies continue their sporadic bombings on the self-declared Islamic State.

And the Zionist State of Israel maintains its defence against its primary enemy, Iran, who are excluded from the fight against IS.

Phil Alden Robinson and Paul Attanasio’s movie adaptation of Tom Clancy’s spy novel, The Sum of All Fears, was released a year after al-Qaeda completed a suicide mission on New York City’s iconic Twin Towers and the USA’s military headquarters, The Pentagon.

My journey into the world of the CIA from the point of view of Jack Ryan began with The Hunt for Red October. The ageing Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) appears to have retired. Or has he? Nevertheless, it appears that his place as CIA hero has been taken by Teakwood Lane and Cherry Pie Production’s Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) who is under the stewardship of acting CIA director, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). Berenson seems to believe that Iran is still the USA’s primary enemy. Somehow, I don’t agree. But, then again, I am not a spy.

Long-serving Russian President, Vladimir Putin is, though. And, I seem to remember that most of Jack Ryan’s battles involved Russians. But they weren’t the enemies. Begrudgingly perhaps, Russia’s role is still a co-operative one with the USA. The problem, though, is that they are still cash-strapped, and corrupt officials and agents slip under the radar selling rusting nuclear bombs to wannabe terrorists and rulers of a new world order.

vladimir putin

This is a theme in Tom Clancy’s The Sum of All Fears. The learned Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) is recruited by DCI William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) to help clear up this mess which leads to the USA and Russia standing on the brink of a nuclear war. A familiar tale of brinkmanship and global chess continues.

Paul Attanasio’s screenplay is tightly crafted to replicate Clancy’s original novel. A film which runs for just over two hours cannot cram in all the details of Tom Clancy’s delicate spy games which, I may add, is a mature improvement from John le Carre’s earlier novels, bringing us up to speed with current geopolitical events.

The French prophet of doom, Nostradamus, is consistent in his thoughts on who the third anti-Christ (after Napoleon and Hitler) is. To this day, biased debates continue, trying to interpret Nostradamus’ mysterious quatrains. The allusion of locating a potential anti-Christ from Europe (and not the middle, or far East) is played out with aplomb by Alan Bates. He does a good show of portraying a devious Nazi billionaire, Dressler, wishing to resurrect fascism by triggering a global war in which he can emerge as the leader of the new world order.

Thankfully, this is all fiction, and our hero, Jack Ryan, deftly traces Dressler to his lair.

Dressler’s stolen nuclear bomb explodes over Baltimore, Maryland. But the production crew’s special effects cannot do any justice to creating horror and fright before a cynical and worldly audience. Way back when, The Day After, ABC Circle Films’ television production, scared me shitless. I watched this film in the early years of this millennium, so I wonder how effective this ancient production was in instilling fear in the hearts and minds of patriotic, gun-toting middle Americans.

war of the worlds 1

This television broadcast reminds me of Orson Welles’ frightening radio broadcast of HG Welles’ science fiction classic, The War of the Worlds. We, as twenty-first century viewers, listeners and readers, can only imagine.

I have often wondered why the USA’s potent propaganda machine of multiple production companies have steered clear from creating a modern major block-buster to improvise on ABC Circle Films’ outdated World War 3 scenario’s.

One could only imagine the consequences of such a project.

The Day After is premised by the outbreak of World War 3 which is fought mainly between the USA and the USSR. The Russians are shown marching and rumbling fearlessly across their borders into Europe while bewildered Kansans try to make sense of the daily newsreels warning them of their impending doom.

I’ve seen a few Tom Clancy movies, all action-packed. But The Sum of All Fears and The Hunt for Red October are personal favourites. Both films give us a taste of the thrilling dangers of nuclear weapons.

After that bomb has exploded over Kansas the effects of nuclear radiation are shown gruesomely through the acting language of stock actors such as John Lithgow, Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams and Steve Guttenberg. Before the film’s screen credits start rolling, a static text warning is given to the audience. The warning stresses that the made-for TV film has merely reconfigured an imaginary scenario of what life would be like after a nuclear bomb is dropped over your head.

The warning ends by reminding viewers that in reality the after-effects of a detonated nuclear weapon and the fall-out from radiation would be far, far worse than this screen gem tries to suggest.

nuclear explosion 2

In reality, both the USA and Russia hold the keys to the largest arsenals of nuclear weapons one could ever imagine. Both France and Great Britain, to my mind, still hold a modest arsenal somewhere. China? Do they have weapons of mass destruction? The partitioned sub-continent of India has them.

Iran? North Korea?

Israel, having refused to sign the so-called non-proliferation treaty, has them.

One final question. Who will press the red button first?


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