The Sum of All Fears is a 2002 American spy thriller film directed by Phil Alden Robinson, based on Tom Clancy’s 1991 novel of the same name. The film, which is set in the Jack Ryan film series, is a reboot taking place in 2002.
Jack Ryan is portrayed as a younger character by Ben Affleck, in comparison with The Hunt for Red October (1990) starring Alec Baldwin. The film’s sequels, Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), both starred Harrison Ford in the role.
Part of the Jack Ryan Franchise.
In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, an Israeli warplane carrying a nuclear bomb is shot down. In 2002, a Syrian scrap collector uncovers a large unexploded bomb buried in a field in the Golan Heights. He sells it to a South African black market arms trafficker named Olson, who recognises it as the nuclear bomb that was lost during that war. He then sells it to a neo-fascist group led by Austrian billionaire Richard Dressler, whose aim is to start a war between the United States and Russia that will devastate them both, and leave a united fascist Europe to rule the world.
In the United States, President Robert Fowler and his national security team, including CIA Director William Cabot, stage a war game scenario where Russian President Zorkin is overthrown in a coup and rogue generals launch a nuclear attack on the Americans. Shortly after the drill, Zorkin dies of a heart attack and is rapidly replaced by a seeming hardliner supported by the military, Alexander Nemerov.
CIA analyst Jack Ryan, who has studied Nemerov and believes him to be a reformer who merely talks like a hardliner to gain their support, is summoned by Cabot to accompany him to Moscow to inspect the top Russian nuclear weapons facility, in compliance with the START treaty. At the Kremlin, they meet Nemerov and his personal aide, former KGB agent Anatoly Grushkov. He requests they deliver a personal message to Fowler, asking him and the US to remain out of Russia’s war in Chechnya and letting Nemerov stabilise Russia in his own way without outside interference. During their investigation of the weapons facility, Ryan notices the absence of three scientists listed on the facility’s roster. After receiving reliable intelligence from a confidential secure informant inside the Kremlin, codenamed “Spinnaker”, Cabot sends operative John Clark to Russia to investigate.
Tensions between the United States and Russia increase when a chemical attack on Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, is reported during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Ryan tries to defend Nemerov by indicating that rogue military commanders could have ordered the attack instead, but his theory is disproved when Nemerov delivers a speech to the State Duma taking responsibility for the attack. In response, Fowler deploys peacekeepers to Chechnya. In Russia, Grushkov informs Nemerov that disgruntled Communist officers ordered the attack on Grozny, and Nemerov orders them removed from command, choosing to take the blame for Grozny rather than risk alienating more figures of his military.
Clark tracks the missing scientists to a former Soviet military facility in Ukraine, where Cabot suspects they are building a secret nuclear weapon that Russia could use without any method to trace it back to them. Ryan and his colleagues discern that a crate from the facility in Ukraine was flown to the Canary Islands, then sent to Baltimore on a cargo ship. Ryan warns Cabot, who is attending a football game in the city with Fowler, about a bomb threat. Thanks to Ryan’s warning, Cabot evacuates the president fast enough to get him out of the stadium before the detonation, but not fast enough for the motorcade to escape the bomb’s shock wave. The stadium is destroyed and, while Fowler is evacuated by Marines, Cabot is mortally wounded. Gathering his national security team aboard a Boeing E-4, they conduct a real-life situation similar to the film’s beginning but with far more confusion and heightened emotions from all those involved. In Russia, President Nemerov desperately tries to defuse the situation over the hotline, but must face American assurance of Russian culpability and his own generals’ desire to attack the US.
Further worsening matters, a corrupt Russian Air Force general who has been paid by Dressler (unbeknownst to the US) sends warplanes to attack a US aircraft carrier, heavily damaging it and worsening the already tense atmosphere between Russia and the United States.
On the scene of the blast in Baltimore, Ryan learns from a radiation assessment team that the isotopic signature from the nuclear blast indicates it was manufactured in the US; evidence which seems to exonerate Russia. Using Cabot’s phone which he had recovered from him before he died, Ryan contacts Spinnaker, his source in the Russian government, who tells him that the uranium was from an American facility, but was stolen by the CIA and secretly given to Israel, until they lost it during the Yom Kippur War. In Syria, Clark tracks down Ghazi, one of the men who found the bomb, now dying of radiation exposure. He tells Clark that he sold the bomb to Olson, who lives in Damascus. Ryan’s colleagues at Langley infiltrate Olson’s computer and download files that implicate Dressler as the person who bought the plutonium and who is behind the nuclear attack.
Ryan is able to reach the National Military Command Centre in the Pentagon and get a message to Nemerov, using the personal rapport they had developed when they had met in Moscow and saying that he knows that Russia was not behind the attack. He asks Nemerov to stand down his forces as a show of good faith. Nemerov agrees to do so and Fowler follows suit. As Nemerov and Fowler sign an agreement to counter nuclear proliferation at the Kremlin, the participants in the conspiracy are tracked and assassinated: Olson is killed by Clark in his home in Damascus, the corrupt Russian general is gunned down by Russian agents, and Dressler is blown up in his car by Grushkov. Later, Fowler and Nemerov deliver joint speeches about their new initiatives and honouring the dead at the White House, as Ryan and his fiancée Dr. Catherine Muller listen in. Grushkov, revealing himself to be Spinnaker, arrives and offers to continue the arrangement he had with Cabot with Ryan, to ensure the back channels between Russia and the United States always remain open. He also gives Catherine a present for their engagement, which they notably had not yet announced to anyone. When Ryan asks him how he could have known, Grushkov merely shrugs, smiles and walks away.
- Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan.
- Morgan Freeman as William ‘Bill’ Cabot, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
- Bridget Moynahan as Cathy Mueller.
- James Cromwell as J. Robert Fowler, President of the United States.
- Liev Schreiber as John Clark.
- Michael Byrne as Anatoly Grushkov, Senior Advisor to President Nemerov.
- Colm Feore as Olson.
- Alan Bates as Richard Dressler.
- Ron Rifkin as Sidney Owens, Secretary of State.
- Ciarán Hinds as Alexander Nemerov, President of the Russian Federation.
- Bruce McGill as Gene Revell, National Security Advisor.
- Richard Marner as President Zorkin, President of the Russian Federation prior to Nemerov.
- Philip Baker Hall as David Becker, Secretary of Defence.
- Josef Sommer as Senator Jessup.
- Ken Jenkins as Admiral Pollack.
- Philip Akin as General Wilkes.
- John Beasley as General Lasseter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
- Lee Garlington as Mary Pat Foley, CIA.
- Joel Bissonnette as Mason, Dressler’s American Contact.
- Sven-Ole Thorsen as Haft, Dressler’s Hitman.
- Marcel Sabourin as Monsieur Monceau.
- Aleksandr Belyavsky as Admiral Ivanov.
- Lev Prygunov as General Saratkin.
- Yevgeni Lazarev as General Dubinin.
- Gregory Hlady as Milinov.
In 1991, Paramount Pictures negotiated with Tom Clancy for the rights to adapt The Sum of All Fears, but the talks stalled after he became reluctant to concede film rights to further works due to his dissatisfaction with the adaptation of Patriot Games. Clancy ultimately agreed after he reached a large cash settlement with the studio president Brandon Tartikoff. However, producer Mace Neufeld was not enthusiastic to adapt the book after the release of Clear and Present Danger in 1994 due to its similarities with the story of Black Sunday and concerns over depicting controversial subjects such as terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A year was spent developing Tom Clancy’s The Cardinal of the Kremlin before the material was deemed too difficult to adapt. An adaptation of Debt of Honour or a new screenplay unrelated to any of Clancy’s books was also considered.
In October 1999, Harrison Ford announced that the next Jack Ryan novel being scripted into a film would indeed be The Sum of All Fears and that “hopefully we’ll get that to a place where we can make a movie.” During this time, writer Akiva Goldsman wrote multiple drafts of the script. However, on 08 June 2000, it was announced that Ford had dropped out of the film after he and director Phillip Noyce were unable to work out script problems. It was later announced that Ben Affleck would take on the role in a $10 million deal that would see the series rebooted with Jack Ryan portrayed at an earlier stage in life. “The day I received the offer to play Jack Ryan, I was filming a Pearl Harbour scene with Alec Baldwin. He was very sweet and said I should do it,” said Affleck. “I wouldn’t have done the movie without talking to Harrison Ford first. He gave me his blessing. That’s what I needed to hear.” Months after Affleck became attached to the project, director Phil Alden Robinson was brought on to lead the project.
While the basic plot is the same in the movie as in the book, there were significant changes. Noting these substantial changes, in the commentary track on the DVD release, Tom Clancy jokingly introduced himself as “the author of the book that he [director Phil Alden Robinson, who is present with Clancy] ignored” and spending most of the commentary poking fun at the film’s factual inaccuracies and differences from the source material. Perhaps the largest change were the original terrorists. In the novel, they were Arab nationalists, but in the film, they were changed to neo-fascists. A common misconception is that this was done as a reaction to the 11 September 2001, attacks, but the movie finished filming in June 2001.
On the “making-of” DVD extra, director Alden Robinson said that the change was purely for elements relating to the plot, because Arab terrorists would not be able to plausibly accomplish all that was necessary for the story to work. In addition, the terrorists in the book received significant aid from elements in East Germany, a country which had ceased to exist before the novel was even published. The group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) did mount a two-year lobbying campaign that ended on 26 January 2001, against using “Muslim villains”, as the original book version did.
Screenwriter Dan Pyne claimed that the decision to not use Arab terrorists was “possibly because that has become a cliché. At the time that I started writing The Sum of All Fears, Jörg Haider was just starting to come into play in Austria. And simultaneous with that, I think, there was some neo-nationalist activity in Holland, and there was stuff going on in Spain and in Italy. So it seemed like a logical and lasting idea that would be universal.” It has also been noted that a larger percent of profits stems from international audiences, and American filmmakers work to avoid alienating large segments of this customer base.
Principal photography for The Sum of All Fears began on 12 February 2001, in Montreal, Quebec. A majority of the film was shot in Montreal, including the sequences at the football game that were shot in the city’s Olympic Stadium. Additional filming was done at the Diefenbunker in Ottawa, Ontario. Production finished in June 2001. The interior scene of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis was filmed on a set used in the television series JAG.
The musical score to The Sum of All Fears is composed by Jerry Goldsmith. A soundtrack album was released on June 4, 2002, by Elektra Records. In addition to Goldsmith’s score, the soundtrack also includes source music such as “If We Get Through This” by Tabitha Fair and “Nessun dorma” by Giacomo Puccini. There are also two tracks from the album (“If We Could Remember” and “The Mission”) that are vocal interpretations of Goldsmith’s primary theme co-written by singer-songwriter Paul Williams. On 12 March 2014, an expanded edition was released by La-La Land Records.
While the film was speculated to be released in late 2001, The Sum of All Fears was theatrically released on 31 May 2002. Many media outlets characterized this apparent change in release date to be a delay due to the 11 September attacks. Addressing the release date, director Phil Alden Robinson said, “When I came on board in August of 2000, they said, ‘This is a Summer-of-2002 picture.'” As the first film released since 11 September to deal so vividly with terrorism, critics believed it to be too alarming to be released nine months after the attacks.
According to Box Office Mojo, the film made US $118,907,036 and $75,014,336 in foreign totals, easily recovering its $68 million production costs.
The film won a Visual Effects Society Award for “Best Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture.” The recipients were Glenn Neufeld, Derek Spears, Dan Malvin, and Al DiSarro.
- The spray can that John Clark (Liev Schreiber) uses to cut through the chain-link fence is supposed to be a real-life CIA chemical spray known as “Ice Piss”.
- When asked if a real can of Ice Piss could be acquired for the scene, the technical advisor said “I don’t want to go to prison!”
- Director Phil Alden Robinson 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.
- After 9/11, the production staff had to review how to present the movie to the public.
- When Ben Affleck first arrived on the set, he told director Phil Alden Robinson, “Nice working with you again.”
- Robinson said, “What do you mean ‘again’?”
- Affleck explained that when Robinson was filming the scene in Boston’s Fenway Park for Field of Dreams (1989), he and Matt Damon were amongst the thousands of extras.
- Ciarán Hinds (President Nemerov) who did not previously speak a word of Russian, learned all of his large chunks of Russian dialogue in two weeks.
- The title is paraphrased from a Sir Winston Churchill speech; “Why, you can take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman, or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together, what do you get? The sum of their fears.”
- According to the director’s DVD commentary, this was the first American movie unit (the second unit) to enter the Kremlin.
- Red Heat (1988) was the first American unit to film in Moscow.
- Matt Damon had a cameo as a waiter, but it was cut from the final movie.
- The nuclear bunker into which President Fowler (James Cromwell) and DCI William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) walk at the beginning of the movie is a real nuclear bunker.
- The scene was shot at a real bunker in Carp, Ontario.
- This bunker was designated as the one in which members of the Canadian government, including the Prime Minister, would be housed during a nuclear attack.
- The bunker was in operation from 1961 until the mid 1980s, and was known as the “Diefenbunker”, in honour of former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who was Prime Minister during its initial construction.
Jack Ryan Series
You can find a full index and overview of the Jack Ryan Franchise here.
Production & Filming Details
- Phil Alden Robinson.
- Tom Clancy … executive producer.
- Stratton Leopold … executive producer.
- Mace Neufeld … producer.
- Tom Clancy … (novel).
- Paul Attanasio … (screenplay).
- Daniel Pyne … (screenplay).
- Jerry Goldsmith.
- John Lindley (Director of Photography).
- Nicolas De Toth.
- Neil Travis.
- Paramount Pictures (presented by).
- Mace Neufeld Productions.
- MFP Munich Film Partners GmbH & Company I. Produktions KG (in association with).
- Mel’s Cite du Cinema (sound stages).
- S.O.A.F. Productions.
- Paramount Pictures (2002) (USA) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2002) (Non-US) (theatrical).
- Toho-Towa (2002) (Japan) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2002) (Argentina) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2002) (Switzerland) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2002) (Germany) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2002) (Finland) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2002) (UK) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2002) (Italy) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2002) (Netherlands) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2002) (Sweden) (theatrical).
- Finnkino (2003) (Finland) (DVD).
- Finnkino (2003) (Finland) (VHS).
- Nelonen (2005) (Finland) (TV).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2002) (Brazil) (DVD).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2002) (Brazil) (VHS).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2003) (Germany) (DVD).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2013) (Germany) (Blu-ray).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2018) (Germany) (all media) (Ultra HD Blu-ray).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2003) (Netherlands) (DVD) (VHS).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2003) (Sweden) (DVD).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2008) (USA) (Blu-ray).
- Paramount Home Video (2002) (USA) (DVD).
- Paramount Home Video (2002) (USA) (VHS).
- SBS6 (2005) (Netherlands) (TV).
- Release Date: 29 May 2002 (Premiere, US).
- Running Time: 124 minutes.
- Rating: 12.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.