Having grown up on Tom Clancy in various forms of film and books (My dad was a huge fan), I was absolutely looking forward to Without Remorse. With the addition of Michael B. Jordan, whose powerful performance in Black Panther made me a fan of his work, it was guaranteed that I’d want to see this movie. While the action matches what I expected and the acting was emotional and dynamic, the story was stale and predictable.
Without Remorse directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, the film features Navy Seal Senior Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan). John’s team rescues a CIA operative in Syria and three months later, in apparent retaliation, his pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London) and his team are murdered by a squad of Russian assassins. Despite several multiple shots, John manages to kill all but one of the operatives before being rushed to the hospital. In Washington, D.C, his friend and former commander Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) meets with CIA officer Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell), who was in charge of the mission in Syria, and Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce) to discuss a response to the attack. However, there is no information on the fourth man and with tensions strained between the two countries, no one wants to instigate war. Left with few resources, John goes on the offensive to track down his wife’s killers and get justice. But his information leads to worse consequences both for him and for the United States. Will John be able to figure out a solution that allows him to find the true perpetrators and take revenge or will he die in the process?
One of the best elements in this film is simply the cast. There are some stellar performers that bring some true talent to this film. Of course, we have the main star of the film, Michael B. Jordan who plays John Kelly. He brings a hefty emotional weight to his acting, to the situation that his character endures. His pain and suffering are truly believable. Within a few short scenes, he brings a rich dynamic and chemistry to his relationship with his wife, played by Lauren London. The pair of them share a warmth that oozes off the screen. He imbues his friendship with Lieutenant Commander Karen Greer with authenticity and humor. The pair share a rich rapport. In addition to the relationships, Jordan also does an excellent job portraying the combat fights and military bearing.
Jodie Turner-Smith is phenomenal as Lieutenant Commander Greer. Not only do she and Jordan have believable chemistry as friends but she portrays a fierceness that I want to see in a female soldier. Her acting fits the character and adds depth to the film. Along with Jodie Turner-Smith, Jamie Bell as Robert Ritter gives a nuanced, subtle performance that leaves you uncertain as to his motives and goals which adds to the intrigue of the movie. Lauren London is warm and loving as Pam Kelly, and Guy Pearce is excellent as Secretary Clay. All of the performances shine.
Along with the acting, the action and combat scenes were perfectly executed. In a film where there is intrigue, fighting, and soldiers, I want to see those explosive, fast-paced, and dynamic. These scenes were all of these but also intelligent. The combat sequences don’t just illustrate characters that fight well but demonstrate thoughtfulness. Especially with Jordan’s character, John Kelly, in the combat scenes, he stops to consider his actions, to make the intelligent choice, not just the choice that will lead to another fight. I love the action-packed scenes and the smart choices the filmmakers have the characters make.
What falters is the writing. This is based on an older Tom Clancy novel and it shows in the plot. The plot has been seen before, the characters have been seen before and it fails to live up to the beautiful performances. Part of the problem is that there is very little backstory given to the main character. We meet John Kelly in Syria three months before the main events in the movie but we don’t get given a great amount of information about him or enough time to become invested. Even the scenes with his wife Pam happen quickly. Ultimately, the only reason I found myself rooting for the character was because of Michael B. Jordan’s incredible performance. In the hands of a lesser actor, this would not have worked.
The other problem is that the writing is stale and predictable. I knew long before the reveal who the true enemy was and the true goal of the events in the film. The archetypes among the characters have been seen before, quite often from films in the eighties. And while this might not be as noticeable anywhere else, in a film based on a Tom Clancy book, it is an error to make me feel like I was watching any number of other Tom Clancy films. Finally, the action works well, but there is just a lack of depth to the movie, never enough development to truly grow the characters and I ultimately felt like I was watching a film created to set up a franchise or a series instead of a well thought out story.
If you love action and combat and love Tom Clancy, you likely will still love this movie. Especially due to the performances, this film is rescued by Michael B. Jordan, Jodie Turner-Smith, Jamie Bell, and the rest of the cast. They help sell the plot and make me empathize with these characters. In addition to the excellent combat scenes, those beautiful performances made me want to love this film. However, I also felt that these actors deserved a better story and a better film to showcase their skills. If the writing had been less predictable, these actors could have given us an incredible movie.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Without Remorse will premiere on Amazon Prime on Friday, April 30, 2021.
Official Website: Amazon.com: Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Jacob Scipio