In the mid-80s through the 90s it didn’t feel like two months passed without the latest spy thriller further stoking the flames of the Cold War. American patriotism hasn’t played out too well in the wake of the last few decades. Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse attempts to spark some new flame into the genre while setting the stage for what could be the next solid spy thriller series.
Michael B. Jordan (Creed II) is operating on this high level where he’s crossing into as many genres as possible to establish himself as the most versatile performer of his generation. And he proves just as adept in the spy games as blockbuster behemoths like Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford and Will Smith.
Jordan stars as John Kelly, a highly skilled Navy SEAL, who takes one last mission before retiring and and enjoying civilian life with his pregnant wife (Lauren London). This mission goes by relatively smooth save for the somewhat shady CIA agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell) withholding some valuable intel about the true purpose.
To get to the revenge thriller aspect of the film some predictably messy events have to occur. While you clearly see them coming it doesn’t make it necessarily any better to watch play out.
With little to lose, John doesn’t care who he takes down with him so long as he can enact his revenge. Fortunately he’s still got some allies in the system left like his former commanding officer Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim) and Secretary of Defense Clay (Guy Pearce, Memento).
And to make sure everything goes smoothly with this next mission, Ritter is assigned as a CIA rep. It’s kind of fun to see Jordan reuniting with his 2015 Fantastic Four co-star Bell in a film they can actually look back on proudly now. Want to have some more fun on a rewatch? Watch Without Remorse as an origin story for Jordan’s Black Panther Killmonger origin story.
Jordan gives John a coiled intensity that’s ready to unleash at any moment. He’s not a powered up super soldier and still manages to show more of a personality than your standard revenge-seeking vigilante. That’s more a credit to Jordan than screenwriters Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water) and Will Staples (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3). They’re fine providing slight modifications to the 1993 Clancy novel where John was a Vietnam vet instead of a SEAL on a standard mission.
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After establishing all the useful character details that get tossed out for the sake of the story, Sheridan and Staples don’t offer much more insight into John. Maybe that’s good enough, but it would have provided better context to show John as more than a highly trained SEAL. Likewise, the premise of the US and Russia getting into a non-Cold War definitely needed some extra polish at the script shop.
Regardless, Director Stefano Sollima (Sicario: Day of the Soldado) dishes out some fun and intense action sequences. They range from small scope — John battling guards in a crowded cell to large scale — retrieving valuable mission intel from a plane sinking into the ocean. Jordan is a convincing action hero pulling off the melee battles and gunplay sequences with more than capable ease.
Also, it’s incredibly cool to see a spy thriller fronted by a black man and woman. Turner-Smith really comes off like a star with a presence that commands attention. Pearce is one of my favorite under appreciated actors and he doesn’t disappoint here while Bell remains intriguing as his true allegiance is revealed.
Given the high production quality of some TV shows and the different directions it could have gone, I wouldn’t have complained if Without Remorse was given the series treatment on Amazon. Instead, this looks like the first installment of a lengthy series that should prominently feature Jordan’s character for years to come.
Without Remorse might have some trappings of a dated 90s relic, but Jordan makes it worth checking out on Amazon Prime.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures