Tom Clancy's terrorist tale The Sum of All Fears — opening Friday — vividly imagines a nuclear attack on Baltimore. While some moviegoers may shy away from this in light of current events, star Morgan Freeman thinks Americans can handle it. "It's a big country," he says. "We're courageous and we're not easily frightened — and this is just a blankity-blank movie."

Freeman admits Paramount Pictures might not have greenlit Fears had the idea been pitched to the studio post-Sept. 11. However, he believes newspapers and TV are inaccurately making it appear that most Americans are still emotionally upset by last year's terrorist attacks — he insists we're not.

"It's best that the media does keep it in the forefront of our minds," the 64-year-old actor concedes. "But if they didn't, we wouldn't be thinking about it. We don't go to bed thinking about it. We don't wake up thinking about it. [We don't think,] 'Gosh, I wonder how they're doing down at the site of the World Trade Center disaster? Maybe I should go down and see them, or maybe I could help in some way.'

"We don't do that at all," he suggests. "[We think,] 'God, I'm late for work.' Same old, same old. We're not appreciatively changed by the event, except in the anticipation of the next event."

Co-star Ben Affleck — who plays Jack Ryan, the CIA rookie under Freeman's command — thinks "it's conceivable that some people would find this [movie] disturbing. Everybody should find it disturbing. That should be the point of it. It shouldn't be done to make a big splash and have everyone 'ooh' and 'aah' at countless thousands of deaths.

"I think that maybe one of the transitions we've made [since Sept. 11] is that we no longer look at [violence] in such a flip way," adds Affleck. "This movie... asks you to look at it in a real way and to consider it."