The Sum of All Fears

The Sum of All Fears Information

The Sum of All Fears is a 2002 American action/political thriller film directed by Phil Alden Robinson and based on Tom Clancy's novel The Sum of All Fears. Starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman it was released by Paramount Pictures in the United States on May 31, 2002.

This fourth film in the Jack Ryan film series is a reboot set in 2002, with Ryan portrayed as younger than in the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October (set in 1984), and that film's sequels, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. It was partially filmed in Ottawa, Ontario, at the Diefenbunker.


During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel deploys an A-4 Skyhawk carrying a nuclear weapon, to use in the event that the country is overrun by the invading Arab armies. The plane is shot down over the Syrian desert, where the bomb is buried by the sand and lost.

Twenty nine years later, U.S. President J. Robert Fowler (James Cromwell) and his senior national security advisors, including CIA Director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman), are conducting a top-secret military simulation of a Russian nuclear attack against the United States. Meanwhile, the Israeli bomb is found in Syria by a couple of scrap dealers and unwittingly sold to a South African arms dealer named Olson (Colm Feore) for 400. Olson in turn sells it for 50 million to an Austrian businessman named Richard Dressler (Alan Bates), who leads a secretive group of wealthy European neo-Nazis, fascists, and white nationalists.

The U.S. becomes concerned when Alexander Nemerov (Ciarán Hinds), a supposed hardliner, becomes the new President of Russia. Cabot seeks the opinion of CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Affleck), who has done extensive research on Nemerov's life and career. During a routine inspection of Russia's nuclear weapons facilities, Cabot and Ryan are invited to the Kremlin to meet with Nemerov personally. Nemerov expresses impatience with the Fowler administration over what he perceives as meddling in Russian internal affairs, specifically the war in Chechnya. Nonetheless, Nemerov and Ryan develop a rapport.

During the inspection, Ryan notices that three Russian nuclear technicians are not present at the facility. Nemerov's aide, Anatoli Grushkov (Michael Byrne), a former KGB assassin, claims that there is nothing amiss. However, Cabot's covert informant in Moscow, "Spinnaker," says that the Russian government does not know where they are. Upon returning to Washington, Cabot sends operative John Clark (Liev Schreiber) to track down the missing scientists. Clark finds them dead in Ukraine, where they had constructed Dressler's bomb using the plutonium from the Israeli weapon.

When President Nemerov takes responsibility for an unauthorized chemical attack on Grozny, President Fowler becomes concerned with the volatility of Nemerov's military policies and responds by sending peacekeeping troops to Chechnya. Ryan correctly believes that the attack was carried out by rogue elements of the Russian military against Nemerov's orders, and that he only took responsibility so as not to appear weak. Meanwhile, the nuclear bomb, disguised as a cigarette vending machine, arrives in a crate in Baltimore and is placed in a football stadium.

In a recording, Dressler shares his ideology: as revenge for defeating Nazi Germany and partitioning Europe during the Cold War, Dressler intends to destroy both the U.S. and Russia. He notes that Hitler was "stupid" for trying to fight both of them, whereas he intends to pit them against one another. By detonating a nuclear weapon in the U.S., Dressler and his associates plan to aggravate an already tense relationship between the two nations to the point of full-blown nuclear war.

Ryan informs Cabot about the bomb, but learns that both he and President Fowler are attending a football game in the stadium where the bomb is planted. Cabot orders Secret Service agents to rush the President out of the stadium. The President manages to escape the stadium, but only moments before the bomb detonates, destroying a significant part of the city and scattering the President's motorcade. After the explosion, President Fowler is rescued by heliborne U.S. Marines, and taken airborne on a Boeing E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post with his cabinet. Immediately, they fear that the bomb was Russian.

After being informed about the explosion, Dressler telephones one of his associates, a corrupt general in the Russian Air Force. In order to further aggravate the situation, the general orders his Tu-22M Backfire pilots to strike the USS John C. Stennis in the North Sea with standoff missiles. In response, President Fowler orders U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets to attack the Russian air base. Tensions escalate as trust between Fowler and Nemerov rapidly deteriorates. To prove that he is willing to take the exchange to the next level, Fowler orders SNAPCOUNT, the military alert level for maximum readiness, preparing to launch a massive nuclear strike on Russian military targets. Seeing that the U.S. has dispatched B-2 stealth bombers and Ohio-class submarines, Nemerov prepares to launch his ICBMs on the United States.

Ryan first learns about the origin of the bomb after a U.S. Army Radiation Assessment Team conducts an isotopic fingerprint analysis of air samples around ground zero in Baltimore. It is concluded that the plutonium for the Baltimore bomb was manufactured at the Savannah River nuclear plant in South Carolina in 1968, thus indicating that the original fissile material was of American, not Russian, origin. He tries, unsuccessfully, to communicate this information to President Fowler. Ryan finds Cabot in a field hospital, dying of the wounds he suffered when the President's motorcade was wrecked. Ryan takes Cabot's personal effects and, with Cabot's text messenger, asks Spinnaker how someone could have obtained the American plutonium. Spinnaker tells him that the U.S. had secretly given it to Israel for their nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, John Clark learns from Ghazi, one of the scrap dealers who is now dying from being exposed to the bomb's radiation, that it was Olson who bought the bomb and that he 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 Baltimore attack.

Ryan gets to the Baltimore harbor docks, only to find Dressler's American contact Jared Mason (Joel Bissonnette) murdered by Dressler's German hitman Haft (Sven-Ole Thorsen). Haft attacks Ryan, but Ryan manages to get the upper hand on him. Ryan tries to force Haft to talk, but is thwarted as the Baltimore police arrive.

Ryan goes to the Pentagon in hopes of contacting the President, but is unable to do so, and instead contacts President Nemerov. Ryan pleads with Nemerov to stop his offensive strike against the U.S. as a sign of good faith, with President Fowler listening in on the conversation. Grushkov persuades Nemerov to do this against the advice of the Russian military leaders. Only seconds before the U.S. launches its missiles, Fowler follows suit, averting a full scale nuclear war. Ryan finds his girlfriend, Dr. Catherine Muller (Bridget Moynahan), who he feared had been killed by the bomb, as the hospital where she worked was near the stadium.

John Clark slips into Olson's residence and cuts his throat, and Russian agents pursue and shoot the traitorous General Dubinin in a snow-covered forest. Dressler, aware that he is targeted as well, has his aide start his car engine to rule out a car bomb. As Grushkov looks on, Dressler is subsequently incinerated moments after he takes the wheel; the bomb was wired to the cigarette lighter instead of the ignition.

In Washington, Fowler and Nemerov announce new arms control and anti-proliferation agreements during a joint speech on the White House lawn. In a nearby park, Ryan and Muller are having a picnic when they are approached by Grushkov. It is revealed that Grushkov is Spinnaker, Cabot's covert source in the Kremlin. Grushkov says he will miss talking with Cabot but says that perhaps he and Ryan can talk, Ryan agrees. Grushkov gives Muller a "modest gift" for her engagement to Ryan. Muller and Ryan are perplexed, as they had not yet told anyone of their engagement. Ryan asks Grushkov how he could possibly know this secret, but he simply smiles, shrugs and walks away.


  • Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan
  • Morgan Freeman as William Cabot, Director of Central Intelligence
  • Bridget Moynahan as Dr. Catherine Muller
  • 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 Defense
  • Ken Jenkins as Admiral Pollack
  • Philip Akin as General Wilkes
  • John Beasley as General Lasseter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Deviations from the book

While the basic plot was the same, there were significant changes from the book. Noting these substantial changes, in the commentary track on the DVD release, Tom Clancy jokingly introduces himself as "the author of the book that he, Phil Alden Robinson, who is present with Clancy ignored".

The original terrorists in the novel were Arab nationalists, but in the film, they are changed to neo-fascists. A common misconception is that this was done as a reaction to the September 11 attacks. However, the movie finished filming in June 2001.

On the "making-of" DVD extra, the director says that this was purely for elements relating to the plot, as Arab terrorists would not be able to plausibly accomplish all that was necessary for the story to work. The group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) did mount a two-year lobbying campaign that ended on January 26, 2001, against using "Muslim villains", as the original book version did. Director Phil Alden Robinson is quoted in a letter to CAIR saying "I hope you will be reassured that I have no intention of promoting negative images of Muslims or Arabs, and I wish you the best in your continuing efforts to combat discrimination".

Screenwriter Dan Pyne claims 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, Joerg 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.


The film received mixed reviews. As of November 2009, Rotten Tomatoes reports that 59% of critics gave the film positive reviews and that the average rating was 6/10 based on a total of 166 reviews counted. The consensus is that the film is "A slick and well-made thriller that takes on new weight due to the current political climate." Peter Travers criticised Affleck's performance, saying it "merely creates an outline for a role he still needs to grow into, a role that Harrison Ford effortlessly filled with authority." Richard Roeper felt the film "is almost impossible to follow -- and there's something cringe-inducing about seeing an American football stadium nuked as pop entertainment." Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune called it "an implausible apocalypse without depth or resonance", while Peter Rainer of New York magazine felt the "movie has been upstaged by the sum of our fears."

A few positive reviews came from The Argus, who praised Freeman for giving "the William Cabot character such validity." Roger Ebert felt that "the use of the neo-Nazis is politically correct: Best to invent villains who won't offend any audiences." But he also feels "Jack Ryan's one-man actions in post-bomb Baltimore are unlikely and way too well-timed."

According to Box Office Mojo, the film made U.S. $118,907,036 and $75,014,336 in foreign totals, well recovering its $68 million production costs.

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