MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Action-Thriller/ Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Luke Mitchell, Jack Kesy, Brett Gelman, Colman Domingo, Guy Pearce, Lauren London, Jacob Scipio, Cam Gigandet, Todd Lasance/Runtime: 109 minutes
I think it is safe to start this review off by saying that in regards to narratives that are either adaptations of stories penned by or at the very least get their inspiration from works penned by Mr. Tom Clancy, the general movie going audience by this point in time has started to have a general idea of just what kind of cinematic pie that they are about to walk into. Indeed since this particular scribe is one whose career is by and large one which revolves around spy sagas set around the time in world history known as the Cold War, I therefore think it is safe to say that if you go into a cinematic adaptation of his literary work you know at least a key element of that movie’s narrative. Suffice it to say that this is most assuredly not something that is tossed to the curb by the slice of cinematic pie I am reviewing today, 2021’s spy thriller Without Remorse. This is because even though the mano a mano game of one-upmanship with the Soviets ended all the way back in the late 80s-early 90s, this slice of cinematic pie from film helmer Stefano Sollima does manage to locate a method of bringing this iconic struggle into the present day. At the same time though, I feel it should be said that a lot of what is done in order for that to be possible is not the most riveting or complex in the world thus resulting in a film that has a beginning and ending that aren’t as riveting as you would like. Thankfully, this slice of cinematic pie is able to gain momentum in other areas namely a potent (if not simplistic) revenge-based narrative for the hero to traverse, a riveting lead performance from Michael B. Jordan, some game support cast work, and some action beats that are top-notch and riveting in the best ways possible. As a result Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse might not be a great movie, but it sure is entertaining and sometimes that’s all you really need for a movie like this.
The plot is as follows: Now it should be noted before I go any further that yes Without Remorse does take a title and the nuts and bolts of its particular narrative from the same titled novel penned by Clancy all the way back in the long gone year that is 1993. Aside from that though and apart from being an origin saga of sorts for John Kelly aka the hero and our main character who will at some point choose to instead take up the mantle of John Clark – this slice of cinematic pie is one that has by and large a very novel narrative at its core instead. With that said, this slice of cinematic pie opens in the lovely country that is Syria and allows us to witness our hero as he is in the midst of carrying out his last mission as a SEAL. A mission that takes the form of working alongside a slightly shifty CIA operative named Ritter in trying to save an operative who has been kidnapped. Yet whilst Kelly’s team is successful in their op, it’s not without its issues namely that the agent in charge lied to them about key elements right from the start. So it is that we see that, upon his return home, our intrepid hero decides to step away from the madness and devote the rest of his life to both his wife and their upcoming child. Unfortunately fate has other plans in mind. This is because we soon see that, in an apparent act of revenge for what went down in Syria, an assassination team is dispatched to take out those who were involved which results in our hero alive but barely. Thus we see that our hero soon becomes determined to get vengeance in any way he can and even though the CIA would love nothing more than for him to just stay out of it, we see that a friend in his unit is able to get him intel to point him in the right direction. However the more he figures out, the more we and our intrepid hero soon begin to figure out that everything that is occurring is part of a scheme that, if successful, could have fallout on a global scale.
Now I won’t lie to you dear reader: this slice of cinematic pie does not get off to the best start in the world. Indeed the idea of a male protagonist springing into action due to the woman he cares about more than anything being mercilessly murdered is a narrative hook so run of the mill that it even has a word in the dictionary. Thus when you pair that up alongside the runaround by the Agency and the fact that this is Kelly’s proverbial “final mission”, it’s safe to say that a lot of the beginning of this film will feel like something you have seen a million times before. Having said that, once this slice of cinematic pie gets through all that and just permits Kelly to do his thing, it really does manage to give us quite the riveting and engaging cinematic experience. Sadly, it doesn’t manage to keep this momentum going until the end due in large part to some twists that you will see coming from a mile away popping up in the final third of the film, but the positives in this movie do by and large negate a lot of the issues that this film is saddled with. This is especially true in how the film helmer manages to give us some action beats that are truly riveting and then some. Yes this film’s helmer did show a degree of skill in his English debut, 2018’s Sicario: Day of the Soldado, but I think his work on this film is something else entirely. This is because there is a degree of genuine realism about the proceedings that pulls you in and inserts you right in the thick of things. A feat that is particularly engaging when these things involve characters sneaking up on a target, interrogating them in a car that is literally on fire, or are in an annihilated shell of a building taking heavy fire to name but a few examples.
To that end, I do feel it should be said that the vast majority of this slice of cinematic pie is as successful on the level that it ultimately is due in large part to the charismatic and engaging in equal measure work done by Michael B. Jordan in the lead role of John Kelly/Clark. Indeed not only do you, as the film goes on, feel driven to see him not only get the vengeance he deserves more than anything, but to also be able to move on despite the palpable pain he feels in waves and droves, but it also is just a plain astonishing performance from a physical perspective that acts as terrific evidence of Jordan’s potential as a potential powerhouse in the world of action cinema. This is primarily because Jordan knew going into this film that he was going to be doing his own stunt work in this and even though we have seen this from him before in such films as the Creed saga and especially in Black Panther from 2018, this slice of cinematic pie is a riveting showcase that Jordan can do quite a bit more in this particular genre. Indeed this is quite the exhausting role since it requires the character to engage in everything from interrogating a man inside a burning car to getting necessary equipment from a submerged plane and yet Jordan manages to pull it off in a way that is truly riveting to watch. In addition to Jordan though, this slice of cinematic pie also manages to contain several support performances that are also not bad with particular regard to the work done by Jodie Turner-Smith, Jamie Bell, and a low-key yet still not-bad performance from the always welcome in a movie Guy Pearce. Suffice it to say this film might have its issues, but its cast is not one of them.
All in all it may come as a surprise to learn that the slice of cinematic pie that is Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is actually a slice of cinematic pie that has been in the works for a lot longer than you might imagine since stabs at trying to bring this particular character to say nothing of his riveting saga to the silver screen can be traced all the way back to when its literary source material was first published for mass consumption. Of course, it should at the same time also be said that as is often to be found with cinematic adaptations with that kind of behind the scenes history, they also stand as true odes to the power of compromise. A fact that is made evident due to how riveting ideas are often pushed to the way side in exchange for the slice of cinematic pie just getting the opportunity to at long last be made, but at least this is one particular narrative that has a happy resolution of sorts. To that end, whilst Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is a slice of cinematic pie that for all intents and purposes won’t most likely be regarded in any way as the finest entry in the action genre of movie magic from the year 2021 due to its quite riveting ingredients often getting blindsided by the utilization of narrative hooks that have been done a million times and then some, it is still a slice of cinematic pie that functions as not only a heck of a good time watching a movie, but also a terrific look at some top-notch talent both behind and in front of the camera with particular regard to Michael B. Jordan who is downright dynamite and then some in the best ways possible. On a scale of 1-5 I give Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse “2021” a solid 3 out of 5.