Directed by: Stefano Sollima
Screenplay by: Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples
Story by : Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples based on “Without Remorse” by Tom Clancy
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Luke Mitchell, Jack Kesy, Brett Gelman, Colman Domingo, Guy Pearce
I’ve been a massive fan of Tom Clancy’s work since I first picked up a “The Hunt for Red October” paperback in 1992. With the level of detail in his novels, the characterizations that he created from mere words, the locations he built inside 1000+ pages, Clancy made a microverse of political intrigue on the world stage. The film series, which has been running since 1990, has also been strong, with those five previous films focusing on Jack Ryan. In the books, though, a secondary character, a special/black operative, John Clark, popped up as a robust supporting character.
Before Clark became the character he was destined to be, the film adaptation of Clancy’s novel, “Without Remorse,” sees Michael B. Jordan inhabit the role of John Kelly.
Like “The Sum of All Fears” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” “Without Remorse” is the third attempt by Paramount to restart the franchise. The film was sold to Amazon amid Covid and is releasing on Prime on April 30.
The strength in “Without Remorse” is Michael B. Jordan. His take on John Kelly, the soldier who questions everything to do with a mission that opens the film, is also an expert at what he does. Jodie Turner-Smith supports Jordan as his commanding officer, Karen Greer (yes, that’s a clever callback to James Earl Jones’ Admiral James Greer).
Knowing the future history, we don’t necessarily trust Jamie Bell’s, Robert Ritter. That’s in part because of Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples’ inability to get the character defined, and in part, because Bell is miscast in the role. The other reason is Secretary Thomas Clay, played by Guy Pearce. Pearce is such a smooth operator. He isn’t deceptive, but his strongly quiescent performance doesn’t give Bell much to move beyond the static character on screen.
That’s the overall challenge with “Without Remorse.” Jordan plays the character to the hilt, allowing the other actors’ room to breathe, and yet, they all are so very one-dimensional that the movie loses momentum.
Even as the unthinkable happens to “activate” John Kelly, and his actions speak volumes to the film’s title, the rewritten script by Taylor Sheridan lacks the depth of, well . . . . anything. The pacing feels generic; the action set pieces are so blocked into the widescreen image that it’s difficult to know where we are in the film at any one point. Relief and therapy are a trigger-pull away for Kelly, yet he knows when to hold back.
The script doesn’t allow for relationships to build. There’s camaraderie amongst the military contingent and between Kelly and Greer. Sollima and Sheridan can’t grasp the characters’ greatness: “Without Remorse” reflects the Clancy title, not the novel itself, giving rise to the aloof nature of those pulling the strings that make the story nebulous.
I suppose the story may be reflecting the horrid nature of what happens to Kelly to get the story moving, and from a psychological perspective, I grant the story an inch for giving that to us. Clark must emerge.
However, a 109-minute run time is hardly long enough for Clancy to get going in his novels and is certainly not enough time to do anything other than introducing a character for the inevitable and subsequent sequel to work its way into our lives.
I am not remorseful that I saw “Without Remorse.” I am remorseful that it wasn’t as good as its peers.
“Without Remorse” streams exclusively on Amazon Prime on April 30th and is Not Recommended.