Since the 90s, the film adaptations of novelist Tom Clancy’s novels have been winners. Without Remorse now streaming on Amazon Prime is also based on the writer’s 1993 thriller, but could cause remorse in Clancy fans. Initially planned as a mid-90s production, it was stuck in development hell for decades.
Starring Michael B Jordan, the movie has stayed stuck in the 90s, in spite of the hardcore action. It is hard to believe that the film has been adapted from a Clancy book. The plot bears little resemblance to its source material and the best parts are not even featured. Take the lead for example: In the novel, John Kelly breaks down a drug ring and saves the girls, before work calls him back to Vietnam for a new mission. In the film, John Kelly (an in-form Michael B Jordan), however, is out on a no-holds-barred mission to avenge the brutal death of his pregnant wife. Why was she killed? Who killed her? How does it tie up with the US government? Director Stefano Sollima happily bypasses any explanations.
Without Remorse goes through the usual espionage clichés: Russians, distrustful officers, globetrotting and one man bringing down an entire army of enemies. In this unsurprising film, it’s the performances that come as pleasant relief and steady the ship. Guy Pearce, Jodie Turner-Smith and Jamie Bell make for a brilliant supporting cast and help elevate Jordan’s character of a no-nonsense soldier with nothing to lose. But despite all the effort put in by the cast, there’s no real character development. Everything is too sketchy and seems too convenient. The good guys suddenly drop out of the sky and the evil ones seem to have stepped out just to have some mean fun. The plot is totally missing.
The action sequences in the film are a delight, though. Be it the small sequence in which John lights up a car and steps in for answers, or the big one in which he survives a plane crashing into a sea. It leaves you wishing for more. If only the rest of the film was as smartly put together.
Keeping a sequel in mind, John Kelly finally begins life anew as John Clark. But the film predictable offers an extremely simplified version of this turn of events. The sequel may have more space to be a stronger story and a racier screenplay, but this first film suffers from unoriginal ideas and bleak twists, leaving you with a wholly different idea of the title than was intended.