Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is, unsurprisingly, the latest film adaptation of a Tom Clancy novel, telling the origin story of a popular character, John Clark, from the Jack Ryan universe. While the popularity of Clancy’s novels is undeniable, Without Remorse is sadly one adaptation too far and offers us nothing but a dull, unoriginal take on the conspiracy and spy genre.
In this adaptation, John Clark has been renamed John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan), an elite Navy SEAL attending a top-secret mission in Syria led by his commanding officer Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) to rescue a CIA operative. The mission doesn’t go as planned and despite coming through unharmed, Kelly takes his frustrations out on CIA Agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell). 3 months later Kelly is at home in Washington D.C. with his heavily pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London), when several members of Kelly’s team are killed in intentional hit and runs or gangland executions.
Soon Kelly’s home is infiltrated and despite killing three out of the four assailants, his wife is brutally murdered in his bed and he too suffers multiple gunshot wounds and ends up in hospital before he can finish the final assassin. After being advised by CIA Secretary Clay (Guy Pierce) that the killings would not be investigated despite uncovering links to Russian spies, Greer passes the information onto Kelly to enable him to pursue the missing assassin and his personal revenge for those who killed his wife.
Unfortunately, this is where the plot gets a little woolly and confusing, to the point where it becomes tiring and almost unwatchable. It’s your typical conspiracy theory film, full of misdirects and a far too complicated and convoluted plot. Even when you finally get your head around what’s actually unfolding, it still seems ridiculously stupid – it’s 2021 and we’re still dealing with Russian enemies? It’s lacking in any originality whatsoever, from the Russians to the revenge plot, we’ve seen it all before. Admittedly while this doesn’t quite fully play out like the lone man after revenge scenario I was expecting, it’s close enough. It isn’t helped either by a huge lack of character development and an over-reliance on stereotypes. Kelly’s wife isn’t given anywhere near enough screen time for us to care about her death and therefore his need for revenge, and Jamie Bell’s CIA agent ticks all the usual boxes for a sketchy possible double-crossing agent.
The cast here are good, and they do the best with what they’ve got to work with, Jodie Turner-Smith being the most memorable performance and the most interesting character. Michael B. Jordan shows off his action star credentials, however this little here to showcase his full range of skills we’ve seen on offer in other films. It’s a shame that the script and the plot, with its incredibly predictable and clichéd ending, can’t match up to the very decent cast. Even the action sequences feel lacklustre, and explosions and a high body count can only get a film so far.
I really wanted to find something to like about this film, and other than decent cinematography and a good cast, I’m really struggling. As action conspiracy films go, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is uninteresting and sadly lacking in anything that has made others in the genre such a success.
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