Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA/Germany, 2002. Paramount Pictures, Mace Neufeld Productions, MFP Munich Film Partners GmbH & Company I. Produktions KG, S.O.A.F. Productions. Screenplay by Paul Attanasio, Daniel Pyne, based on the novel by Tom Clancy. Cinematography by John Lindley. Produced by Mace Neufeld. Music by Jerry Goldsmith. Production Design by Jeannine Oppewall. Costume Design by Marie-Sylvie Deveau. Film Editing by Nicolas De Toth, Neil Travis.
In Israel, a nuclear bomb long thought lost in the desert sands has gone missing; in Russia the American CIA led by Morgan Freeman is investigating the disappearance of three atomic scientists; in Austria a neo-Nazi (Alan Bates) is at the head of a scheme to start a war between Russia and the USA that will allow his party supreme rule of the earth. These and many other plot wrinkles are uncomfortably pieced together in this wonky adaptation of Tom Clancy’s novel, one that has been rewritten from the original source to have its main character Jack Ryan now a novice at the CIA instead of the tired professional played by Harrison Ford, in order to accommodate the casting of young Ben Affleck. Unfortunately it hasn’t been rewritten well, so instead of exploring the possibilities available in seeing this character before he could confidently make choices in his line of work, it just comes off as a lame excuse to have the young superstar in the role. Affleck is sturdy in the lead (which was originated by Alec Baldwin), as is the entire supporting cast around him (James Cromwell, Ron Rifkin, Philip Baker Hall and an excellent Ciarán Hinds as the Russian president are high points, while Bates performs with a stupid German accent that makes his dialogue impossible to understand every time he opens his mouth), but the film’s climax is weak. The story is more complex and impressive than any other Clancy work, but with a far too-relaxed Phil Alden Robinson directing it too many notches short of white-knuckle tight, it’s a collection of great elements that doesn’t equal the sum of its parts.