Synopsis – John Clark, a Navy SEAL, goes on a path to avenge his wife’s murder only to find himself inside of a larger conspiracy.
My Take – Though I have never been a fan of thinly veiled conservative politics, I am still an avid reader of the late Tom Clancy‘s Jack Ryan series, which continues till date with authors like Grant Blackwood, Mark Greaney, Mike Maden and Marc Cameron further expanding the in-built universe.
However, what first got me hooked on these novels were their highly enjoyable and successful film adaptions like The Hunt for Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992), and Clear and Present Danger (1994), which thrust an almost every guy like character into the deep world of politics and espionage. While the series received criticism for the albeit financially successful, The Sum of All Fears (2002), and dropped dead with the potential franchise starting reboot, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014).
In a newer world, Amazon has found massive success by adaption the character and his world into series form. However, this latest Amazon release has nothing to do with Ryan, but instead focuses on a fan favorite supporting character named John Clark, a former Navy SEAL working as an operations officer for the CIA, who has even acted Ryan’s bodyguard and driver at points.
Acting as an origin story to the character, with Michael B. Jordan picking up the reigns from Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber, this film looked every bit as the franchise kick starter Paramount Pictures was initially aiming for.
Unfortunately, along with the fact that it has next to nothing in common with the 1993 Tom Clancy novel of the same name, the film contains bare minimum to stand out in an already cluttered genre of rogue spies seeking vengeance. While director Stefano Sollima (Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Gomorrah), and writers Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water) and Will Staples (The Right Stuff) deliver on the expected intense, brutal and relentless action set-pieces, they do miss out nailing the emotional beats, thereby making the narrative feel quite generic, that overly relies on its lead star to steer the vehicle to success.
Although it has a few twists and turns that you might not see coming, the film is also in some ways exactly what you expect it’ll be. It doesn’t exactly have anything revelatory to say about global diplomacy or the American military and it takes itself quite seriously.
The story follows Senior Chief John Kelly (Michael. B Jordan), who following an unorthodox operation set up by Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell), a CIA agent, in Aleppo, Syria, which saw his team of US Navy SEALs, rescue a CIA hostage, and exchange gunfire with the Russian military in the process, heads home to his pregnant wife, Pam Kelly (Lauren London), contemplating retirement and moving into private security.
However, three months later, members of his team begin to get picked off by Russian FSB operatives, who even attack Kelly’s residence, killing Pam, and leaving him barely alive. Determined for pay back, Kelly is allowed to assemble a team sanctioned by Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce), with fellow SEAL Member, Lt. Commander Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith), and head into Russia to follow the leads on these killings which may reveal some covert secrets thereby igniting another Cold War between the U.S. and Russia.
Much like director Kenneth Branagh‘s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, director Sollima’s film too returns to Tom Clancy’s basic building blocks: Russians, mutually assured destruction, suspicious American intelligence forces, and one hero to fight them all. Sadly, this film is far too scenically modest for its supposedly wide canvas, and way too shortsighted to maximize its lead character. Though the idea of avenging the death of the love is your basic premise for some many action films, here, director Sollima aspires to bring that lithe action narrative, however, that works on when you have interesting character set up to back it up.
The film brings up some interesting points about the futility of war, and how ‘pawns’ lose everything because ‘kings’ want to play games. However, the way they present these concepts feel half-baked.
Thankfully, director Sollima delivers on the film’s leading and redeeming feature: slickly choreographed, tension-filled and highly effective action set-pieces, that speak poorly of Russia’s intelligence gathering skills.
The film has one or two interesting action sequences, like one where Kelly sets a car on fire and then enters it to interrogate a suspect. Or the one where he takes on a large part of the Russian police force and the paramilitary by himself, so that his fellow soldiers can escape from the scene.
In terms of performances, Michael B. Jordan is great as a leading man and his physical preparedness for the role is never in question, as he throws himself physically and emotionally in the role, that you actually believe he has been shot and is dragging himself through a corridor. However, the real revelation of the film is Jodie Turner-Smith as she is incredible as Karen Greer, making her more root-able than Kelly himself.
Unfortunately, despite adding some gravitas, both Jamie Bell and Guy Pearce, are wasted in underwritten roles. Although Brett Gelman appears for only two sequence in the film, he manages to stand out. In other roles, Lauren London, Colman Domingo, Jack Kesy, Jacob Scipio, Luke Mitchell, Cam Gigandet and Todd Lasance, are good. On the whole, ‘Without Remorse’ is a modest action thriller that delivers on the action front but disappoints with its shortsighted narrative.
Directed – Stefano Sollima
Rated – R
Run Time – 109 minutes