Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Luke Mitchell, Jack Kesy. Directed by Stefano Sollima.
Given that Tom Clancy is a prolific writer of what could easily be called “Dad-fiction” offering airport pot-boilers about espionage, it’s surprising his work isn’t more adapted. Admittedly, five Jack Ryan-centric movies and a TV series is decent, but now we get a new arm of his work.
Without Remorse follows Navy SEAL John Kelly who, after a covert mission, is attacked in his home by Russian baddies, leaving him hurt and his pregnant wife dead. Kelly goes on a mission of revenge to discover what is going on.
Stefano Sollima, director of Sicario follow up Soldado, appears to be a wise choice to direct the film, with a script co-written by Taylor Sheridan it has that neo-western vibe that the two clearly enjoy and work so well in. Sollima has a decent view to an arresting shot and staging action, and even if it’s not elegant it’s certainly brutal enough, and he knows how to keep the plot moving without ever getting too dull.
Similarly, after completely scrapping the dated 90s plot of the novel, Sheridan and co-writer Will Staples have managed to weave a sometimes interesting narrative about a man on a warpath. It’s the basic set-up of bad guy Russians but there’s enough in its intrigue that can keep you going even when you think the wheels are turning and it’s falling into cliche. And boy is it falling into cliche.
The film has plot-twists and double-crosses that are very easy to see coming, not least from quite a bit of uninspired casting. Michael B. Jordan is perfectly cast as Kelly, able to modulate between caged beast anger and thoughtful man. Kelly is much more of a blunt object than Jack Ryan. While Ryan is a nerd forced into action, Kelly is an action man forced into a corner. Similarly, Jodie Turner-Smith is good support as his friend and colleague.
Sadly, the casting of Jamie Bell as a potentially crooked CIA type, and Guy Pearce sleepwalking through his role as shady suited guy, are both so obvious from the outset that nothing the plot does with them is a big surprise. In fact, it’s laughable how straight the film plays it.
When it comes down to it, this is a punchy and sometimes thrilling action flick, with occasional aspirations above its station to be talking about the current political climate. It does offer another fantastic vehicle for Jordan and enough sequel bait to potentially give us the Krasinski-Ryan/Jordan-Kelly team up and cinematic universe that many people are probably hoping will come.
For everyone else, this is pulp, neo-noir intrigue, aiming squarely at your dad to enjoy.