Without Remorse Review: Remarkably bland action and generic espionage thrills
The latest novel by prolific military espionage novelist Tom Clancy to be adapted, Without Remorse, is another generic action thriller with plenty of familiar faces.
Across movies, television, and video games, there’re have been tons of adaptations of Clancy’s work. Oddly enough though, I don’t I’ve ever seen or played any of them. Big Clancy franchises and characters like Jack Ryan, Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six, and Ghost Recon are certainly familiar, but aren’t really a part of the genres I explore too much. However, with Michael B. Jordan in the starring role and seeing this film constantly featured among upcoming video game adaptations, there was a newfound excitement I had around Without Remorse – until I watched it. Frankly, if other Clancy adaptations are like this, I don’t feel like I’ve been missing out on much.
The film, a spin-off of the Jack Ryan film series, follows Navy SEAL John Kelly (Jordan) as he goes a path of vengeance for his slain wife and unborn daughter and ends up uncovering a major conspiracy. The story is completely unremarkable and hits the same beats that most secretive conflicts between Russia and the US do. There’s no clear direction for the story and the stakes outside of Kelly seeking vengeance for his wife don’t ever come through. It constantly feels like the story is trying to build to something shocking or much bigger, but just leads to the typical realization of these two countries trying to poke at each other to start a war. Not to mention, the reasoning behind these attempts to start a war that come in the film’s final moments are incredibly dull and fall totally flat. Even Kelly’s story for vengeance doesn’t leave a strong mark because the performances and tone are bland as hell.
To say that Without Remorse lacks interesting thrills would be an understatement because it’s a total bore. Its attempts to make Kelly’s story of vengeance emotionally understandable or the overly complicated and secretive conspiracy plot interesting totally fail because of how familiar they feel. The super serious tone of the movie makes it tough to connect to the characters, especially Kelly, and doesn’t create anything to be interested in. There’s honestly not enough action either and there’re only a few memorably tense moments. Honestly though, even when the film tries to ramp things up in the action department it’s nothing special. It’s so uninspired and unremarkable that it barely gets your heartrate going and doesn’t come with any sort of style or substance. Worst of all, is that the overly serious nature of the film works completely against the strengths of this cast – especially Jordan.
Jordan greatest strengths are in how he can give charismatic qualities to more domineering characters and bring heroic personas to life for viewers to get behind. Here though, Jordan is trapped behind Kelly’s furious anger and abrasiveness and the story doesn’t give him a lot to do otherwise. We don’t get to know Kelly all that much and he’s so mission focused that there isn’t even enough time to explore the relationships he has and makes along the way. The same unfortunately can be said about the rest of the cast as well since Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Guy Pearce can’t break their respective characters’ seriousness to bring out any sort of likeable or charismatic personalities.
Without Remorse even tries to establish a cinematic future for itself by teasing a Rainbow Six sequel with Jordan leading the charge. It makes sense given the popularity of Rainbow Six in the gaming world because of Siege still dominating. However, there’s no real reason otherwise to get people excited about it or build out its lore, characters, or relationships to create any sort of reason to want to see the world expanded upon.
Without Remorse is remarkably bland and fails to create a memorable enough experience to support its dreams of spawning a Rainbow Six inspired sequel or utilize its talented cast to bring together an engaging or remotely interesting espionage narrative.