Films, games, and series based on Tom Clancy’s written works are a pop culture mainstay. The most recent is Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (Without Remorse), an Amazon Original directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. The film is produced by and stars Michael B. Jordan in its lead role of John Kelly. The film also stars Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Lauren London, Brett Gelman, Jacob Scipio, and Guy Pearce.
The most important part of Without Remorse is that it serves as an origin story for one of Clancy’s most popular heroes from the Jack Ryan universe – John Clark. Before becoming John Clark, he was John Kelly, an elite Navy SEAL who unwittingly uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife. In the film, tragedy strikes when a squad of Russian soldiers kills Kelly’s family in retaliation for his role in a top-secret op. From that point, Kelly pursues the assassins at all costs.
Joining forces with a fellow SEAL, Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith), and a shadowy CIA agent, Ritter (Jamie Bell), his mission unwittingly exposes a covert plot that threatens to engulf the U.S. and Russia in an all-out war. In typical Tom Clancy fashion, the thematic crux of the Without Remorse is a situation that causes Kelly to be torn between personal honor and loyalty to his country. While the film’s focus begins with a revenge story, it turns into a story highlighting how soldiers are pawns for war and how the orders they have may spit in the face of what they’ve vowed to protect.
As Kelly, Jordan brings charisma and physicality to the role. If you’re unfamiliar with media based on Clancy’s novels, Without Remorse is slow. The action arrives in high-impact bursts, which puts Jordan’s ability to embrace stunts and fight choreography in the spotlight but then fades out to a slower story – where piercing glances and intrigue take center stage. Jordan, for his part, delivers in both elements of the film. In the film’s first act, he is grief-stricken, angry, and impressively terrifying when he strikes the first blow against the Russians who killed his family. That said, he is also able to show vulnerability in moments with his colleague and friend Greer. He opens up, and despite his stoic exterior, Jordan is able to carry a sense of sadness in his performance, even when grief isn’t the main topic of conversation.
Additionally, Turner-Smith is phenomenal in Without Remorse. She’s a female action star, steadfast and strong she holds her own in action sequences with her male counterparts. In addition to that, though, her one-on-one scenes with Jordan’s Kelly are striking. While some would expect emotion in the way of pure empathy, the way most women are shown offering comfort, Greer’s comfort is given with a whiskey bottle. She pushes Kelly out of his comfort zone while also calling him on the emotions he’s hiding.
All of that being said, there is a little bit of frustration when it comes to watching the action sequences at night time. While Sollima’s camera work is well done, following the action without relying on excessive jump-cuts, the scenes themselves are too darkly lit. While this is an issue in general, there are lighting elements that should have been considered to light both Jordan and Turner-Smith’s moments – fighting, and otherwise, that weren’t. Beyond that, though, anything in close-quarters and at night is so dimly lit that it’s hard to tell which character is which. In one scene specifically, Kelly and his team are pinned down by snipers, but it’s hard to tell which team member is which and where they’re placed. Additionally, when there is a lot of fight choreography, like when John takes on multiple operatives, the dim lighting obstructs some of the intricacies of the fight choreography.
That said, the thrilling nature of Without Remorse is pushed by its twists and terms. But the action is driven firmly by Jordan. In fact, while the film features one stunning action sequence that sets the tone for who Kelly is a Navy SEAL but, more importantly, what he’s willing to risk for revenge. The first act of the film is, in fact, the strongest of it, and it’s due in large part to Jordan’s quick shift from injured and grieving widower to a man out for revenge and taking it in a perfectly executed plan.
Overall, Without Remorse is standard Tom Clancy. From pact to themes, the film doesn’t break the mold. But with Jordan as its central character, not only delivering great action but emotional moments, this sets up a future for John Clark films which can propel Jordan to the action stardom he truly deserves.
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime on April 30, 2021.
Tom Clancy's Without Remorse
- Rating - 6.5/106.5/10
Without Remorse is standard Tom Clancy. From pact to themes, the film doesn’t break the mold. But with Jordan as its central character not only delivering great action but emotional moments, this sets up a future for John Clark films which can propel Jordan to the action stardom he truly deserves.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.