Reel Reviews | Without Remorse

by Tim Gordon

When a decorated Navy Seal is targeted by a group of foreign agents, he fights back with a vengeance in the rousing action thriller, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse.

The film is directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. It is based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy and a spin-off of the Jack Ryan film series. The film stars Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Luke Mitchell, Jack Kesy, Brett Gelman, Colman Domingo, and Guy Pearce.

The story opens as an elite team of Navy SEALSs, led by Senior Chief John Clark (Jordan) extract a CIA operative in the middle of a war-torn region of Syria. After a vicious firefight, where he saves his colleague and close friend, Lt. Commander Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith), Clark immediately is suspicious of the motives of his colleague, Ritter (Bell) that this rescue has far-reaching consequences than were initially intended. His premonition proves to be true as several months later, he and his entire team are targeted by Russian assassins in retaliation, resulting in the loss of Clark’s pregnant wife, Pam (Lauren London). Left for dead, Clark begins a one-man crusade to find the men responsible to avenge her death.

Over the course of the last five decades, one of the most popular genres of action films is the revenge fantasy. Dating as far back as 1974’s Death Wish, with recent nods to stories such as the Oscar-nominated drama, Promising Young Woman, John Wick, the recent release, Nobody, and countless others, acclaimed author Tom Clancy’s story of political intrigue certainly fits the bill. Clancy has described Clark as “Jack Ryan’s dark side” and “more inclined to take physical action than Ryan is.” Resting on the formidable and carefully sculpted shoulders of an established star, Michael B. Jordan from a screenplay by the ultra-talented Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water), the combination proves intoxicating.

Jordan’s Clark is, to borrow the phrase popularized by Liam Neeson, “a man with a particular set of skills.” Featuring a body cut and molded from his earlier Creed films, Clark displays his prowess in a rousing prison cell scene where he takes down several guards in almost a ballet-like manner with brutal precision. Trained to be a killing machine, Clark at the direction of the Secretary of Defense Clay (Guy Pierce), and over the objections of Greer, is assigned to a task force to hunt the Russian assassins.

While Greer thinks that Clark is too close to this case and filled with rage, she reluctantly agrees to help him. While their scenes together are brief, they are impactful as two colleagues and friends share the monumental burden that he is to undertake. As Clark gets closer to uncovering the truth, adversaries become allies, alliances are challenged and the common theme of Clancy’s novels of the mistrust in the government once again asserts itself.

Clancy’s second most famous character after Jack Ryan, Clark has been featured in many of his Ryanverse novels, originally appearing in 1987’s The Cardinal of the Kremlin, his origin story was detailed in Clancy’s best-seller, Without Remorse in 1993. Jordan is the third character to portray Clark on the big screen, following in the footsteps of Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. His take on the character displays not just the physicality needed for the countless action scenes but a quiet reflectiveness and vulnerability that gives him more dimension and gravitas. Jordan is filling out his filmography nicely with star turns in films such as Fruitvale Station, Creed, Black Panther, and Just Mercy. This latest film is yet another feature in this talented actor/producer’s cap.

The sixth Clancy novel adapted to the big screen, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is a tightly written and highly effective addition to his cinematic “Ryanverse.” Reuniting Jordan and Bell (2015’s The Fantastic Four) as well as another solid performance by Turner-Smith coupled with another strong screenplay by Sheridan, the film is an excellent blend of action and intrigue that leaves the door open for a welcomed continuation of this satisfying tale.

Grade: B+