Cast: Michael B Jordan, Jodie Turner-Smith, Jamie Bell, Guy Pearce
Director: Stefano Sollima
What does it mean for an institution when a loyal soldier goes rogue? How much does a soldier have to lose to give up on the country he served unconditionally for so many years? Stefano Sollima’s Without Remorse asks some important questions about politics, identity and violence, however at the end it leaves you underwhelmed.
Without Remorse is the origin story of former Navy SEAL turned intelligence officer John Clark, when he was a soldier named John Kelly. He is a part of Tom Clancy’s ‘Ryanverse’ which consists of the Jack Ryan books and films. Without Remorse, starring Michael B Jordan, belongs to the same universe as John Krasinski’s Jack Ryan series on Amazon Prime.
Now, John Clark is an extremely popular character. He is more brutal than Ryan, but is a calculated and skilled fighter with mad survival skills. In this film, he has been retconned from a soldier during the Cold War to the present times. He is also played by Jordan, who is a very talented and popular actor. John Clark or Kelly, easily has the potential to surpass the analytical and moral Jack Ryan among the younger generation because of layers in his character. Only if the plot had the capability to hold the weight of the film.
The film starts with John Kelly leading his men on a hostage rescue mission in Aleppo Syria. They then find out that the troops holding the hostage are actually Russian. They get into an unexpected confrontation and one man from their team dies.
Three months later, we see him enjoying a barbecue with his pregnant wife and friends, intercut with two members of his team being killed by unknown assailants. John, who has new plans for his wife and unborn daughter doesn’t know his life will flip upside down when these assailants break into his house and kill his wife in his place.
John, who also gets shot multiple times, somehow survives with his life. On the other hand, the CIA mandates that all investigations in his case be stopped. When his teammate and confidante Lt Commander Karen Greer (niece of popular Ryanverse character James Greer) secretly informs him of this development, John decides to basically go rogue.
What follows next is basically a slideshow of how smart, strong and ruthless John is. There are a bunch of twists which end up in John, Karen and a bunch of American soldiers literally crashing into Russia to find the man who killed John’s wife.
John basically plays the judge, jury and executioner throughout the film. After a point of time you lose count of the number of bodies that are riddled with his bullets. He also survives an insane amount of fatal accidents, from a plane crash, a shoot-out to a bombing. The film is so predictable because there is a clear pattern for what is to happen next.
Without Remorse is not bad or boring. If you are a hardcore action movie fan, you will love the mind-numbing sight of bullets flying all over the place. However, if you are looking for a reason why all of it is happening, you will be a little confused. The film brings up some interesting points about the futility of war, and how ‘pawns’ lose everything because ‘kings’ want to play games. However, the way they present these concepts feel half-baked.
In terms of performances, Michael B Jordan is great as a leading man. He throws himself physically and emotionally in the role, that you actually believe he has been shot and is dragging himself through a corridor.
However, the revelation of the film is Jodie Turner-Smith as Karen Greer. The character in itself is so different from most most military roles written for films, especially that for women. It’s not a big deal that she is the only woman soldier in the field. In fact, she is the one leading everyone. Both her and John are two alpha personalities who sometimes are at loggerheads with each other, but they let each other thrive at the behest of the team. Turner-Smith is incredible as Greer, and you root for her more than John.
So should you watch Without Remorse? If you are a Jack Ryan fan then you might like the film better than ones who aren’t. The film ends with the hint of a sequel, so here is hoping that the second film will be much better. Big franchises often have films that are crucial for the storyline but aren’t great as a stand-alone movie. Without Remorse can be added to that list.