A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a fairly typical blow-'em-up movie. Characters drink, smoke, curse, kill one another, and commit espionage and acts of terrorism. The film addresses the worst case scenario for a missing nuclear weapon, which has fallen into the hands of a terrorist group based in the Middle East. The film's representation of Middle Eastern people and culture is two-dimensional. The destruction and violence depicted in the movie may be upsetting to younger viewers, and the film's political themes will likely confuse them.
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What's the story?
Based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS centers on Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck), a CIA pencil pusher called in to help provide insight to Russian-American relations after the assassination of the Russian president. When a low-yield nuclear bomb is detonated at the Superbowl, the CIA assumes that the Russians may well be to blame. Jack convinced otherwise, risks his career and his life to find the real explanation. The audience learns early in the film that the terrorist act is the work of a Middle Eastern terrorist cell that bought a stray nuclear weapon, and then watches Jack struggle to discover the same information.
Is it any good?
Filled with explosions and espionage, The Sum of All Fears is a typical big budget action film in most regards. It attempts to be thought-provoking, but manages only to be alarmist. The acting is nothing to write home about. As Jack Ryan, Ben Affleck does his best, which isn't saying much. Bridget Moynahan in the role of Dr. Cathy Muller, Morgan Freeman is consistent as Ryan's supervisor, DCI William Cabot. Similarly bland, the special effects in the film consist, unsurprisingly, of a series of explosions and shootings.
This isn't a terrible movie, but it's just middle-of-the-road action. The film's treatment of global politics is over-simplified. While the scenario outlined in the movie might be conceivable, it's highly unlikely. The film is too violent to make sense as family entertainment, and the political agenda means that the time it takes to watch the film might be better spent reading the newspaper.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about issues of arms races and nuclear weapons control. How likely is a scenario like the one depicted in this movie? What measures should be taken to keep nuclear weapons from becoming a threat? The film also addresses social responsibility. Jack Ryan risks his career and his life to ensure the safety of the American public. While this is clearly the "right" thing to do, how does Jack manage to make this risky decision?
- In theaters: May 31, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: October 29, 2002
- Cast: Ben Affleck, Liev Schreiber, Morgan Freeman
- Director: Phil Alden Robinson
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, disaster images, and brief strong violence.
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