Tom Clancy Possibly died eight years ago, but new books (by lesser known writers in the fine print) and movie / TV adaptations continued steadily. The mediocre Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) was the last feature to carry Clancy’s name, while its eponymous hero was more successful on the small screen with Amazon’s Jack Ryan series. The streamer recorded the latest film adaptation, Without regrets, from Paramount after the theater plans were putted, but fans hoping for something similar to the source novel are out of luck. This is a streamlined genesis story for Clancy’s second most popular character, but while the film stumbles upon its star, you come for Clancy but you stay for an intense and charismatic performance of Michael B. Jordan.
John Kelly (Jordan) and his colleagues from Navy SEALs, led by the team, Lt. Commander Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) and a seedy CIA agent named Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell). Things turn sideways when it becomes clear that Ritter was withholding information, and three months later Kelly is back in the United States with a pregnant woman and plans to retire from a private sector job. Plans change when two of his SEAL colleagues are murdered and an attack on his own home wounds him and leaves his wife dead. Ritter and Defense Minister Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce) reveal that it was Russians who took revenge for what happened in Aleppo – and even explain the score (!) – but Kelly doesn’t feel so forgiving. And the wheels of vengeance keep turning …
Clancy’s novel is a dense, character-rich story that deals with violent threats both domestically and internationally, but with no regrets, it tells a far simpler story for the screen. writer Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples Step up the action beats and minimize the narrative into a fairly straightforward revenge tale with the most obvious villain exposure since Benedict Cumberbatch said, “My name is Khan.” Thankfully, both Jordan’s performance and director Stefano SollimaThe execution of these action set pieces almost makes up for the otherwise flat script.
Sollima brought a similar eye for kinetic action sequences to his television series Gomorrah (2014-2016) and Sicario: Soldier’s Day (2018), the latter of which were also written by Sheridan. Big shootings end the film with the second home devastation. Other highlights include a plane crash, an intense and fiery interrogation, and a prison brawl. The prison fight is especially exciting as it takes place in a cramped cell and is initiated by a pimped up Kelly who prepares by overflowing his sink, soaking his shirt, and wetting his torn torso.
However, Jordan’s accomplishment is the heart, soul and muscle of the film as it transitions from soldier to widower to avenger and beyond. The actor is the producer of the film and has initially signed up for a two-picture deal – an adaptation of Clancys Rainbow Six is to follow without regrets – and he is just as involved here as he is in the more famous Creed films. Kelly – the man who becomes John Clark (previously played by Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber) – is the fist and weapon for Jack Ryan’s analytical brain, and it is easy to imagine further adventures with him. (Hell, now that they’re both on Amazon, it’s easy to see a possible team-up too.) It’s a shame the script doesn’t feel that invested in the character. Lip service is paid for the dispensability of soldiers at home and abroad, but rather than really weighing on the subject, it is mainly used to alert the film and its characters of the intended sequel.
When speaking of these supporting characters, the caliber of talent that brought them to life cannot be denied. Pearce is always reliable, and while Bell can’t quite fill Henry Czerny’s shoes as a knight, he does a good job as a two-time jerk. Turner-Smith is a standout player with that 90 degree turn of her character / genre in Queen & Slim (2019), and it’s a smart piece that her Admiral Greer’s niece does in an extra piece of continuity across the Clancy verse . Two of them will be welcome faces in the not yet green-lit Rainbow Six.
Without Remorse ends up above Shadow Recruit and The Sum of All Fears (2002), but well below the 90s trifecta of The Hunt for Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994). It feels less like a Tom Clancy thriller, and more like any number of general-purpose action films, and while that probably doesn’t surprise anyone, given the talent involved, it was reasonable to expect more than just another story about a dead woman, the one armed man fuels grief.