In the modern media world where IP — intellectual property — is king, one can never be surprised when characters or whole movies are revived for a new generation. The worlds Tom Clancy brought to life in his books have led to five different people playing his most iconic character, Jack Ryan, most recently in the ongoing Jack Ryan series on Amazon Prime Video.
So it’s not a shocker that another Clancy property is showing up in movie form. What is new is that this one, Without Remorse, involves not Ryan but a secondary character in the Ryan saga, John Kelly. Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) is a Navy Seal who, as the film opens, is on a top-secret mission in Syria alongside fellow Seal Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) to rescue a hostage from what they are told are Syrians, but wind up being Russians.
What happens on that mission, which also involves CIA agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell), has a ripple effect on the rest of the plot. Kelly is the classic “man who can’t die” type of character, and when you pair that seeming invincibility with a thirst for revenge against those who have done him wrong, you essentially get an unstoppable killing machine.
For anyone familiar with the 1993 novel on which the film is based, don’t bother looking for any parallels as the only thing they share is Kelly and his relentless demeanor. Well, that and hatred for the Russians. The book was set during the Vietnam War and the height of the Cold War, and the filmmakers — director Stefano Sollima and writers Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples — use the still-palpable enmity with the Russians as the film’s driving force.
The film has much more in common with the Jason Bourne series than anything that Clancy actually wrote. Kelly, Greer, and a varying group of mercenaries make their way around the world, engaging in a number of great action set pieces, including Kelly entering a car already on fire and a plane crash. Despite the country-hopping and the plot involving a good number of twists, Sollima manages to keep the story relatively comprehensible.
Jordan, who’s been somewhat under the radar since releasing Creed II in 2018, is a natural for the role. The intensity he brings to the character makes him pop, but he keeps Kelly grounded with an engaging vulnerability. Turner-Smith is a nice foil for him, and much more than a token female supporting actor. Both Bell and Guy Pearce play shifty government representatives, and they do much to prove the narrative that putting white men in charge can lead to bad things.
A Tom Clancy movie in name only, Without Remorse is a fantastic start to a potential franchise (a sequel based on Clancy’s Rainbow Six is already being planned). Jordan is a top-notch movie star, and the brutally effective action scenes showcase his skills to the utmost.
Without Remorse is playing on Amazon Prime Video.