Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse Synopsis: Seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife (Lauren London), John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan), an elite Navy SEAL, uncovers a covert plot that threatens to engulf the United States and Russia in an all-out war.
The militarized intrigue behind Tom Clancy’s robust novels used to be a common fixture on the big screen. Illustrious stars like Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Sean Connery highlighted an old generation of thrilling actioners that occasionally tapped into their surrounding zeitgeist (the mileage varied, but The Hunt for Red October still holds up). After some notable success, a changing of Hollywood tides and a failed Jack Ryan reboot (remember Shadow Recruit?!?!) forever morphed the brand’s big-screen reverence.
Brands can only remain dormant in Hollywood for so long, which explains the new Michael B. Jordan-led espionage thriller Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse. Amazon’s latest swing at event cinema (the streamer wisely acquired the potential franchise starter during Paramount’s pandemic selling spree) boasts a superstar talent and a worthwhile nucleus for taunt entertainment. The film’s innate promise is part of what makes its tired execution such a frustrating task to endure. It’s a blank espionage story stuck on a loop of dated action contrivances, ironically operating without remorse towards the film’s more worthwhile connotations.
Even in a midtier mixed bag, Michael B. Jordan’s radiant abilities are still on full display. The Creed star’s instant gravitas and emotive physicality catapult him to instant action hero status, with his impressive talents being the sole cog holding this wayward narrative somewhat together. As the grieving John Kelly, Jordan skillfully manifests the character’s raw pain into his onslaught of vengeful actions. It’s impressive seeing just how much weight the actor imbues into such a thankless role, showcasing a promising future as a potential headline action star.
I’d love to see what Jordan can bring to future vehicles, but I’m not sure if a Without Remorse sequel would be the best use of his talents (it’s made clear this might not be the end for John Kelly). As a potential franchise starter, screenwriters Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples submit a flavorless and shockingly rudimentary effort. The narrative delves down a generic tale of revenge and corruption, rarely taking necessary breathers to flesh out the purposeless players involved. Audiences can see how the film could delve deeper into Kelly’s volatile violent streak or America’s disenfranchised treatment of its military heroes, yet the screenplay doesn’t seem to have much interest. It all reaks of a workman-like aroma, doing the bare minimum to satisfy the audience’s action craving.
Where the material suffers, uninspired filmmaking choices aren’t equipped to pick up the slack. Director Stefano Sollima competently stages a few high-profile action sequences, but none of these frames are injected with much energy or texture. The action feels oddly weightless, never nailing the Clancy balance between blockbuster entertainment and real-world impact (for an R-rated film, the seldom use of blood and grizzly images are odd to see). A few well-choreographed frames (a certain plane crash is shot with creative camera angles) can’t mask the action film’s overall banality.
Michael B. Jordan is an effervescent superstar talent. However, even his acclaimed talents cant carry Without Remorse’s generically crafted tale of espionage and deceit. Unless you’re a Clancy completionist or a diehard fan of middling dad movies, just stick to the original Clancy films.
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
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