A couple of fun set-pieces aside, the latest big screen take on Tom Clancy is likely to fill you with a deep-seated regret of your own
In the 30 years since the release of The Hunt for Red October, each new film based on the books of Tom Clancy has felt like diminishing returns. From that submarine-set classic, we moved on to two enjoyable Jack Ryan thrillers led by Harrison Ford, before things got pretty stodgy with The Sum of All Fears and 2014’s instantly forgotten Shadow Recruit. Sadly, the Michael B. Jordan-starring Without Remorse continues this trend, a mostly lifeless conspiracy thriller that feels like a waste of everyone both in front and behind the camera.
Jordan, who also produces, plays John Kelly, an elite Navy SEAL whose squad starts getting mysteriously killed after stumbling upon a Russian weapons depot during a mission in Syria. These assassins also target Kelly, but instead wind up murdering his heavily pregnant wife, leaving him with nothing but a mission of vengeance. It’s a pretty generic story staffed by equally generic characters, from Kelly’s no-nonsense commander Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) to shady CIA agent Ritter (Jamie Bell) and the underhanded Defense Secretary Clay (Guy Pearce).
Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay never does anything interesting with these archetypes – hugely disappointing given the high bar set by his past writing on Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River. Even the murder of Kelly’s wife feels more like a mere incident of the plot than any sort of emotional crux for either the character or the film as a whole.
This lack of verve is also found in the performances – Jordan is fine but unspectacular, and Turner-Smith is just utterly wooden – and Stefano Sollima’s underwhelming direction. Most of the shootouts feel weightless and the hand-to-hand combat pales next to the likes of Bourne or John Wick. When all the weapons get put away, there is one genuinely thrilling set piece as Kelly’s transport plane crashes over the ocean, all creaking metal and frantic near-drownings, but it also serves to further highlight how dull the rest of the action is.
A post-credits sting clearly signals Without Remorse’s ambition to be a franchise-launcher, but with such a predictable, blandly executed story, it’s hard to imagine there being much appetite for a sequel. Failing to find its own identity beyond being a Bourne knock off, there’s nothing that makes Without Remorse worth recommending ahead of its countless genre stablemates.
Without Remorse is now streaming on Prime Video.Where to watch