The Sum of All Fears

It is stupid to imagine that if you wield a very large stick today, and use it to beat someone (no matter how much they deserved it) and obtain seemingly successful results, then someone else wouldn't use a large stick against you to get their ends (no matter how little you deserve it). The solution, then, to this complex conundrum, epitomised in The Sum of All Fears, is the renunciation of all violence and authority.

Jack Ryan (played by Ben Affleck) is just starting out at the CIA, and ears of important people listen to him since he's the (only) expert on the latest Russian Prime Minister who the American government establishment is unable to get a handle on. Like with the Cuban Missile Crisis (see Thirteen Days for example), the film sets up a situation where the two nuclear powers are close to obliterating most of the world. Except that the catalysing event here is the explosion of a small nuclear bomb in downtown Baltimore. The architects of this attack, a bunch of neo-Nazi schemers, use a logic based on Hitler's stupidity to take on both America and Russia instead of making them fight each other to achieve his goals.

Even though the film is fiction based on Tom Clancy's book of the same name, it'll hit people hard because of how close to the truth it gets. I'm not referring to the attacks on September 11 that occurred in the U.S., but the world wide situation involving psychopaths and nuclear weapons. The film has changed its villains from Middle-Easterners to neo-Nazis (compared to the book), and while that might have dampened the effect, I think it was a good call.

It's important to keep in mind that anyone can be a psychopath, and in my view, anyone who can justify the taking of life, even in the worst of cases, is traversing a steep slope. The reason violence and authority go hand in hand is because we are taught today that violence is the solution to all our problems. The immediate success it brings however doesn't translate into long-term results. There is no clear solution however, though the words attributed to Gandhi, King, and Christ offer some guidance.

Another lesson from the film, and another reason to renounce violence, is that what goes around, comes around, literally. The bomb in Baltimore ends up being created by the very people that seek to protect the city. Creating and unleashing weapons of mass destruction and assuming that we can control its use is an illusion. And I don't know about you, but if a nuclear bomb went off in the city I live in, the last people I'd trust would be a bunch of doddering old people flying around on a plane.

The action scenes, filmed using a lot of real military equipment, are extremely realistic. Ben Affleck is not comfortable as Jack Ryan, a role best played by Harrison Ford. The movie has a lot of flaws, but it's easy to gloss over them, not just because of the current climate but also because of the kinetic pacing.

If you're not able or willing to spend time in a country torn by conflict, living your life on the edge, worrying when the next maniac is going to go on a genocidal rampage, and want the same experience without the pain, then it's definitely worth seeing The Sum of All Fears. It's also a great action flick.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||