Moviegoer: Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse

Michael B. Jordan (right) and Jodie Turner-Smith in Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse.

Wasted potential makes this thriller a frustrating watch 

By Diana Beechener 

Navy SEAL John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan: Raising Dion) is part of an elite team trusted with dangerous missions. But when an extraction goes sideways in Aleppo, Kelly is left questioning the motives of the CIA officer who gave them the assignment.  

Instead of raiding a small base, Kelly and his team find themselves facing off against the Russian army. Furious that one of his men was killed because he wasn’t given a full briefing, Kelly vows to hold those in power responsible. His superior, Greer (Jodi Turner-Smith: Queen & Slim), convinces him to let it go and focus on the future. With a pregnant wife waiting at home, Kelly puts the incident behind him. He considers retiring from the SEALS for a safer, more stable life as a family man.  

But the ghosts of the Aleppo mission followed him home. Members of his team are being murdered and when the assassins come for Kelly, they slay his wife instead. Alone and broken, he  has nothing to do but plan vengeance.  

Greer offers Kelly a chance to find out why his team and his wife were killed. All he has to do is join another elite team, led by Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell: Rocketman), the same CIA officer who pulled him into the quagmire in Aleppo.  

Can Kelly trust his new team? Or will his need for revenge cloud his judgement? 

Based on the writings of Maryland’s own Tom Clancy, Without Remorse is an origin story for one of the author’s most popular characters. As such, this doesn’t seem like a film so much as a season of television crammed into two hours. Director Stefano Sollima (Sicario: Day of the Soldado) races through John Kelly’s back story. The speed at which he covers the story makes it difficult for the film to believably build relationships. It’s hard to feel the loss of Kelly’s wife when she’s only had three minutes of screen time—a problem given that’s his sole motivation throughout the film.  

The film does have some nice action set pieces, including a pretty gnarly plane crash. When the film stops speeding through plots and just lets Kelly and his team blast through action sequences, it starts to really gel into something fun. Sollima and Jordan both excel at action and you can see how much fun both are having when they get to the run-and-gun parts of the movie.  

Clancy fans will see some of their favorite characters, including CIA suits Ritter and Greer. But unless you’re well-versed in the world of Clancy, it’s hard to understand the significance and relationships between the characters. To make matters worse, writers Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples resort to appalling clichés. Jordan is a capable actor, but even he can’t rescue the lines he’s forced to say. As a rule of thumb, if one of your characters shouts out “DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GAME?”, your script probably needs another draft. 

Though the story is a bit of a dud, Jordan and Turner-Smith are a good on-screen duo. It would be interesting to see what they could do with a script that allows them to dig into their talents. As it is, Jordan is only really allowed to flex and scream instead of emote. It’s a shame that such a gifted physical actor isn’t given more time to really dig into Kelly’s character.  

If you’re a longtime fan of Clancy, it could be fun to see one of his international political thrillers play out. The film is filled with action and men shouting about international relations. But if you’re in the market for a film that really delves into a character, Without Remorse will leave you feeling dissatisfied. Hopefully if Amazon grants a sequel, they’ll give Kelly’s character and Jordan the material they deserve.  

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is available on Amazon April 30.  

Fair Action * R * 110 mins.