DirectorPhil Alden Robinson
Release Date(s)2002 (August 21, 2018)
Studio(s)Mace Neufeld Productions/MFP Munich Film/SOAF (Paramount Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
[Editor’s Note: This film is currently only available in the U.S. in the Jack Ryan 5-Film Collection in 4K, but it will no doubt be released by itself internationally and domestically at some point in the future, thus we are reviewing each film in the set individually.]
Based upon the Tom Clancy novel (though with significant changes), Phil Alden Robinson’s The Sum of All Fears (2002) was intended as a reboot of the Jack Ryan film franchise, with the character newly depicted as a fresh young and upcoming CIA analyst now played by Ben Affleck. As an advisor to the CIA Director (Morgan Freeman), Ryan is thrust into the middle of a neo-Nazi terrorist plot to smuggle a nuclear weapon onto American soil and detonate it, in the hopes of sparking an all-out war between the U.S. and Russia.
The changes (and Clancy’s complaints about them) aside, the film is actually quite good – certainly, it’s the most under-appreciated of the Ryan films. Affleck makes a credible Jack Ryan; his performance actually hints at the direction that John Krasinski would later take in Amazon’s Jack Ryan TV series. Freeman and James Cromwell deliver well in their roles too, the latter playing POTUS. More interesting though are Liev Schreiber as John Clark, a role that surely influenced his later casting as the lead in Showtime’s Ray Donovan, and Ciarán Hinds and Michael Byrne, as the Russian President and his personal ex-KGB advisor and fixer, respectively. The film offers a fine Jerry Goldsmith score – one of his last. It’s also interesting for the fact that it predicted the rise of fascism and neo-Nazis as a global threat (the threat in the book comes instead from Palestinian terrorists). And while its impact is lost today, the film’s depiction of a terrorist nuclear explosion on American soil had a chilling effect on audiences during its initial theatrical release, just eight months after the events of 9/11.
The Sum of All Fears was shot on 35mm film using Panavision cameras with anamorphic lenses and was finished on film. For its Ultra HD release, the negative was scanned in full native 4K and given a high dynamic range grade (available in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats). It’s presented here at the proper 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Right off the bat, it should be noted that this is a significant improvement upon the previous Blu-ray image (a transfer that was repurposed from the film’s original HD-DVD release). Fine detail and texturing are excellent, natural looking without appearing edgy. There’s a light wash of grain that allows the image to retain its filmic character. The HDR grade is subtle, but deepens the shadows and gives the highlights a realistic pop and intensity. Colors are accurate and nicely saturated, appearing richer and more nuanced than on Blu-ray. This is not an eye-candy release, but it’s a pleasing 4K image nonetheless.
Audio on the 4K disc is offered in the same English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix that was included on the previous Blu-ray edition. It offers a medium-wide soundstage that’s alternately contained but natural in dialogue moments, then big and muscular in set-pieces, particularly the aforementioned nuclear explosion. Dialogue is clear and clean, panning is smooth, and bass is robust just when it needs to be. The Goldsmith score is presented with good fidelity. The mix isn’t flashy, nor does it have the advantage of vertical enhancement it might have gained from a new Atmos mix, but it’s solid nonetheless. Additional audio options include English Audio Description, German, Spanish, Latin Spanish, French, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Russian 5.1 Dolby Digital, as well as French Canadian and Polish 2.0 Dolby Digital. Available subtitles include English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, Latin Spanish, French, French Canadian, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Finnish, and Swedish.
The 4K disc itself includes only two special features, both carried over from the previous Blu-ray:
- Audio commentary by director Phil Alden Robinson and cinematographer John Lindley
- Audio commentary by director Phil Alden Robinson and novelist Tom Clancy
Of these, the second track is the gem. Clancy clearly doesn’t appreciate the changes that were made to the story for cinematic reasons, but Robinson treats him with respect and does his best to keep the conversation on track. As a result, you get the sense that Clancy does have a grudging respect for the director and so he provides a lot of interesting insights and comments about what’s realistic (or not) in the film. It’s quite a good listen, actually.
The package also includes the film in 1080p HD via the previous Blu-ray, which includes the two commentaries and adds the following:
- The Making of The Sum of All Fears (2 parts – SD – 29:55 in all)
- Creating Reality: The Visual Effects of The Sum of All Fears (4 parts – SD – 27:48 in all)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:24)
It’s not much by way of extras and there’s nothing new, but at least you do get everything that’s been created previously. There is also a Digital Copy code on a paper insert in the package.
If you haven’t seen this film before, or you haven’t seen it in a while, I strongly encourage you to give it a fresh look… especially if you’re a fan of the recent Jack Ryan TV series. While I certainly liked Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, I personally find The Sum of All Fears to the second best film of this franchise. It was a strong relaunch with Affleck, and I wish they’d continued with him. As it stands, the film represents a lost opportunity and a road not taken… but a very solid one nonetheless. If you do like the film, it’s never looked better than it does here on 4K Ultra HD from Paramount and so it’s recommended for fans.
- Bill Hunt