|Synopsis||An elite Navy SEAL uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife. (IMDB)|
|Length||1 hour, 49 minutes|
|Release Date||April 30th, 2021|
|Writing||Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. Based on the novel by Tom Clancy.|
|Composition||Jon Thor Birgisson|
|Starring||Michael B. Jordan, Jodie Turner-Smith, Jamie Bell, Guy Pearce|
Without Remorse stars Michael B. Jordan in the role of John Kelly, a.k.a John Clarke, and is based on Tom Clancy’s novel of the same name. Many studios have been trying to get the book adapted for so long, and Paramount and Amazon studios are the two that have made it happen. Initially intended for a theatrical release in October of 2020 by Paramount, Amazon Studios acquired the distribution rights. Amazon playing a part in this movie’s release feels right and makes sense, especially with the successful Jack Ryan television series under their belt. Die-hard fans of the books may not be pleased with the nearly completely different story but are accustomed to the liberties taken with Tom Clancy movies. Though I would’ve liked to see what the actual story would’ve been like on-screen, Without Remorse stands above average with great performances by the actors and some intense scenes that will stick with me for a long time.
Violence/Scary Images: This movie includes various scenes in which people are being shot and stabbed with a surprisingly mild amount of blood. However, a few very intense moments are worth mentioning—the first in which an entire squad of soldiers is assassinated. One man is run over by a vehicle, while another is shot while stopped in traffic. In the same sequence, a character’s pregnant wife is shot. In a separate scene, we see a man with explosives strapped to his chest. He pulls the trigger; we see an explosion, but there is no depiction of the man exploding or his remains. There are two sequences that feel claustrophobic and take place underwater. The last scene to note is a car slamming into another at full speed, then pinned. Gasoline is then thrown on the pinned car before it is engulfed in flames.
Language/Crude Humor: Characters use the words “a**” and “s**t” a few times. The Lord’s name is taken in vain six times. “F**k” is used three times.
Drug/Alcohol References: Two characters drink some whiskey.
Sexual Content: There is no nudity to be found in this movie. A husband and wife kiss a few times while in bed. Another scene shows the two characters lying with one another in the woods while fully clothed.
Spiritual Content: One scene depicts a character having a near-death experience. He and his deceased wife have a conversation about heaven. She says it is real, but that’s not where they are, and that she is with him. This scene doesn’t make much sense but feels inserted to include some closure for the character.
Other Negative Content: Most of the characters’ lives are treated as expendable due to corrupt forces. Espionage and other related illegal activities are committed.
Positive Content: Although it is achieved through violent means, the goal of the main character is to seek justice and end corruption.
Let me start by saying that Without Remorse has a plot that we have seen done a thousand times. It is a revenge story in which the hero finds out he was working for the bad guys. However, a few factors make it stand out among a sea of forgettable action movies. All of the actors involved bring their A-game and make the story more compelling. Secondly, a few intense scenes and sequences helped make the experience more memorable than it should’ve been. This film isn’t going to win any awards, but I believe that audiences would’ve been on the edge of their seats if it had come to theaters.
The book takes place during the Cold War. John Kelly was still on a path of revenge, but for a different reason and a different target. For the film adaptation, the director decided to modernize the story to reflect our current society. The race of a few characters were changed along with the gender of another in the process. While I think a period piece would’ve been the bolder move, I also feel that it was the right call to adapt the story into one that appeals to both a modern and broader audience. The only aspect that stays the same is an ongoing conflict between the U.S. and Russia.
First, I want to highlight a few of the performances that helped keep me invested in the story. Michael B. Jordan takes the role of John Kelly and delivers some raw emotion that makes some of the more intense scenes extra special. Next is the role of Greer, played by Jodie Turner-Smith. As a commander, she played the part well, unlike Mila Jovovich in Monster Hunter, who desperately wanted everyone to believe she could play such a role and tried too hard. Last but not least is Jamie Bell in the part of Robert Ritter. This is a CIA operative with our lead characters questioning him from the beginning, leading the viewer to be suspicious of him. Watching these three actors and how their characters play off one another helped make Without Remorse a movie I wanted to watch to the end.
There were a handful of sequences and intense scenes that made this movie worth watching as well. Without giving too much detail, there is a scene at the beginning that had me jaw-dropped and thinking, “Did I just watch that happen?” Then, there is a moment when John finds himself in prison while still being targeted for assassination. Watching him plan quickly and prepare for the fight that is about to take place was, for me, one of the more entertaining moments of the film. The more I thought about it, I realized that there was rarely a dull moment to be found and it’s a well-paced story. The first half of the movie sets the stage very quickly, gives us time to breathe towards the middle, and then cranks up the intensity for the second half.
The second half of the film takes place almost entirely in Russia. When our lead characters get there, it becomes a point of no return until the mission is complete. Their time spent in Russia is the film’s highlight: from the time they land to John having to fight his way out of an apartment building full of soldiers. There are a few scenes I can think of that I’d rather not spoil. Through the more heart-pounding sequences, I was surprised how tame the violence is with the R-rating. This movie is a tense ride from start to finish, but sadly, some areas don’t stick the landing.
Though it should be one of the film’s main focuses, the international conflict between the United States and Russia feels like an incomplete concept. When John discovers and confronts the mastermind of the operation, the excuse is underwhelming. It’s not that I don’t find the character’s reasoning believable, more so that I find it to be a waste. As in, you’re going to stage acts of terrorism simply for that? Throughout the movie, there were never any exciting pieces of the puzzle to solve to figure out who was really behind the conspiracy, only misdirection. As a whole, the overarching motivation doesn’t feel earned in the slightest.
Finally, we have a scene at the end of the movie that makes little to no sense at all. I mentioned it in the spiritual section of the content guide but would like to bring it up again. As I previously stated, the scene exists so that John would have some closure, but the conversation that the two characters have lacks any value. I found myself scratching my head, wondering what was going on at this moment. It isn’t a humorous situation, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact that Michael B. Jordan’s character doesn’t even know where he’s at but seems to be cool with it. I understand what the filmmakers were trying to do, but they completely missed the mark.
Despite some significant issues, I still believe that Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is a cut above your average action movie—though it may not feel like Tom Clancy’s anymore. What excites me is the potential of a Rainbow Six movie, since it was announced in 2017 that one is in development and the heavy connections made in the post-credits scene. The most hardcore fans of Clancy’s work will likely not be satisfied, but I appreciate the effort made to adapt these stories to our modern culture. With multiple seasons of Amazon’s Jack Ryan and now Without Remorse, we may see Jordan and Krasinski cross paths one day. It seems like Paramount and Amazon are slowly building what might be a Marvel-like cinematic universe, and I’m currently on board to see what that looks like in the future.
-Typical revenge story
-Awkward spiritual moment
-Weak antagonist motivations
The Bottom Line
Without Remorse's plot is that of a typical action movie, but the stars and various action sequences make it more than an average experience.