Jun 7, 2002

The Sum of All Fears

This film is textbook Tom Clancy. He is the master of the funnel effect. He starts by cross-cutting around a huge circle worldwide. He tells us the general endpoint fairly early and adds a ticking clock. The cross-cutting spirals tighter and tighter, in both space and time, with all the actors converging at a single point.

Clancy adds another element crucial to his huge commercial success. Most political thrillers, especially in film, show the hero hunted by vast, hidden forces and often end with the hero's death or defeat.

Clancy, on the other hand, finds a way to place his single hero at the center of these vast forces, almost like a man riding a hurricane. The hero figures out the one key to turning the vortex from disaster to victory.

Structurally, Clancy is combining thriller and epic, two forms that don't naturally go together. It's a combination that is very popular when it's done right.