The Sum of All Fears


Mixed or average reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 35
  2. Negative: 8 out of 35

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Critic Reviews

  1. 40
    Feels awfully rushed, as Ryan flies from the Ukraine to Moscow to the Russian hinterlands and back to Baltimore to make sweet, sophomore agent love to his physician girlfriend (Moynahan). It has the feel of one of 007's globe-hopping adventures, but without any of that franchise's giddy sense of fun.
  2. 38
    As a spy film, The Sum of All Fears is flaccid, and as an expose of nuclear threats, there's not enough information.
  3. 50
    And then there's Liev Schreiber as CIA operative John Clark. With less than 30 minutes of screen time, he's everything Affleck isn't - magnetic, clever, and delightful to watch. If only the filmmakers had possessed the courage to cast the splendid Schreiber instead of the feeble Affleck.
  4. A middlebrow hybrid that should satisfy most fans of spy movies without blowing them away.
  5. 70
    Screenwriters Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne stick to Clancy's sure-fire formula -- building tension from the political infighting behind a worsening crisis.
  6. 88
    Director Phil Alden Robinson and his writers, Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne, do a spellbinding job of cranking up the tension, they create a portrait of convincing realism, and then they add the other stuff because, well, if anybody ever makes a movie like this without the obligatory Hollywood softeners, audiences might flee the theater in despair.
  7. The sum of all snores until the moviemakers start blowing up Baltimore halfway through. Then the special-effects people take over for about 20 breathless minutes.
  8. A world-detonation thriller, at once urgent and lazy, that benefits from its connection to current events and also, by the end, suffers from it.
  9. 70
    Smart, complex, and engrossing idea-driven action thriller.
  10. 80
    Smartly directed, grown-up film of ideas -- with a debonair script by Paul Attanasio (Donny Brasco) and Daniel Pyne.
  11. Has vast scope, unflagging energy, a rousing Jerry Goldsmith score and a horrendous disaster sequence that conveys much in discreet fashion in keeping with post-Sept. 11 sensibilities yet is needlessly evasive in telling us the precise extent of its magnitude.
  12. 75
    Impossible to watch passively. It may be a work of pure fiction, with the requisite preposterous plot turns, but it still has the air of a ''what if?'' scenario, and it is perfectly, thoroughly chilling.
  13. New Times (L.A.)
    Reviewed by: Robert Wilonsky
    When Affleck keeps getting work, the terrorists HAVE won. With blank eyes and soft features, he has none of the gravitas of his predecessors, Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford, who saved the world with swagger. Affleck merely looks like a frat boy in over his head, which is perhaps the point.
  14. New York Daily News
    Reviewed by: Jack Mathews
    A popcorn movie with a protein center, satisfying neither taste.
  15. Movie has been upstaged by the sum of our fears. The staunch heroics, frantic presidential huddles, and hairbreadth rescues all seem tinny and escapist, too Cold Warrior–ish, for what's really going on now.
  16. 25
    A moribund attempt to exhume the Jack Ryan techno-thriller franchise with a severely miscast Ben Affleck, is truly the 20-megaton bomb among this summer's blockbusters.
  17. Newsweek
    Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Poor Affleck. He doesn’t just have to singlehandedly save the world from nuclear destruction, he has to erase our memories of Ford and Baldwin. That’s a tall order for any actor, and Affleck, an expert at playing cocky, callow yuppies, just doesn’t have the heft.
  18. Fortunately, even when star and story are ineffectual, Fears' supporting players are all thrilling, especially Morgan Freeman.
  19. 67
    The tension is so plausibly high that you're eager to see how it winds up. Eager enough, in fact, to forgive Jack Ryan for reversing the aging process and winding up as Ben Affleck.
  20. 75
    The movie does what all good thrillers should do -- provide enough shocks and surprises to keep us guessing, and never lets up on the suspense until the end credits arrive.
  21. 20
    How the hell did Ben Affleck, 29, wind up replacing Harrison Ford, 59, as our hero? Who's next as Ryan -- Ozzy Osbourne's guppy son, Jack? Chronology hasn't been this royally fucked with since Memento.
  22. 30
    Isn't a serious attempt to deal with our vulnerability to terrorism, or to address how established channels of power can bring us to the brink. It's the same damn Tom Clancy picture that's been churned out since "The Hunt for Red October," as humorless and gray and dour as its predecessors.
  23. Yet there's no getting around one awkward fact. The picture, which turns on a cataclysmic act of terrorism within U.S. borders, was made for a different audience from the one that's about to see it.
  24. All told, it's a reasonably effective movie, but it might have been a lot more effective had it the guts to portray a Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden-like character as its villain instead of this rather unbelievable, but more politically correct, gaggle of cardboard neo-Nazis.
  25. 50
    At once too real for escapism and too ridiculous for a credible espionage thriller, The Sum Of All Fears unfolds like a cruel joke and treats imagined human tragedy as the punchline.
  26. How's this for frightening: The casting of the lightweight Ben Affleck as a CIA agent who holds the fate of the entire world in his pretty-boy hands. Can't deny it, that got my heart pumping like a bunny.
  27. It's a striking measure of the nervousness of the country right now that a movie so full of holes should be as gripping as it is, at least for its first two-thirds, after which it collapses into a swamp of sentimental mush.
  28. The New Yorker
    Reviewed by: David Denby
    As an evocation of danger, the movie seems threatening yet is nowhere near serious or intelligent enough to satisfy our current sense of alarm. [3 June 2002, p. 100]
  29. Film's real sticky wicket is that the bad guys not only threaten to nuke a major American city but do it — a conceit that might have been more amusing before terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center using hijacked commercial jets. Witnesses said the WTC attack looked like a movie; they didn't say it was a movie they wanted to see.
  30. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Mediocre terrorist melodrama turned even punier by real-life events, and that's before we scratch our heads at its lead-actor choice.
  31. Reviewed by: Robert Koehler
    Director Phil Alden Robinson -- has done just about everything he can do to build a sleek, involving and -- for a few minutes -- terrifying movie that can get viewers past the young Ryan factor.
  32. The jerry-rigged result is a trite espionage thriller without the thrills but with a lingering measure of nausea.
  33. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    The last thing we need is entertainment that evokes the horror and then trivializes it with cheesy heroics. Never has a movie taken on a subject of greater immediacy, or handled it more ineptly.
  34. 40
    Should carry all the urgency of a film that captures, magnifies and elaborates on the anxieties of its time. Luckily, that movie has already been made: It's called "Dr. Strangelove," and it's available at a video store near you.
  35. Surprisingly uninvolving, the least effective of Neufeld's Clancy-based movies. Surely he was not looking for this kind of film: one that bombs literally and figuratively.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 52 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 27
  2. Negative: 3 out of 27
  1. May 25, 2016
    Not a bad movie. Ben Afleck tries his best to pull off Jack Ryan. I think Harrison Ford did a much better job though.

    Watch it online for
    Not a bad movie. Ben Afleck tries his best to pull off Jack Ryan. I think Harrison Ford did a much better job though.

    Watch it online for free:
    Full Review »
  2. Feb 17, 2014
    The Sum of All Fears is a pretty good, but not great, Jack Ryan flick. Ben Affleck plays a solid Ryan, and Morgan Freeman is amazing asThe Sum of All Fears is a pretty good, but not great, Jack Ryan flick. Ben Affleck plays a solid Ryan, and Morgan Freeman is amazing as always. It's worth a watch. Full Review »
  3. Nov 24, 2011
    Great movie heavily underrated. Very thrilling setup until the very last minute. I loved the movie and think critics are very wrong. TheGreat movie heavily underrated. Very thrilling setup until the very last minute. I loved the movie and think critics are very wrong. The nuclear explosion was very frightening. I can highly recommend this movie! Full Review »