Without Remorse–Latest Amazon movie veers far from Tom Clancy storytelling

Review by C.J. Bunce

Perhaps it’s because The Hunt for Red October was such a fantastic story and film.  It’s often in Hollywood that sequels are worse than the original, but with Tom Clancy screen projects it seems to be progressively so.  Since Tom Clancy’s death in 2013 we’ve seen his Jack “Ryanverse” come to the screen twice, first on the big screen in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) with Chris Pine as Ryan, and later on the small screen in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (2018) on Amazon Prime with The Office’s John Krasinski stepping into the role of Ryan previously handled by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October (1990), Harrison Ford in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), and Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears (2002).  Nothing anyone has tried has reversed the downward trend in quality, action, and intrigue, and that includes Amazon Studios’ new movie, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse Even worse, the latest sequel is barely recognizable from Clancy’s original novel.  Or his style.

In Clear and Present Danger, the second major Ryanverse character arrived in Willem Dafoe’s John Clark, later reprised by Liev Schreiber in The Sum of All Fears.  As was first done with Ryan in The Sum of All Fears, and later with Pine and Krasinski, Without Remorse takes another step back into the Clancy timeline, trying to reclaim some of that 1980s Cold War intrigue.  Unfortunately, what made for intrigue back then is now no more than wildly re-imagined historical fiction, and not even rising action star Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Black Panther) can save it.  As John, a new spin on the super-soldier in the shadows of the books, the character is twisted into a superhero-turned anti-hero, apparently of the Unbreakable variety.  He survives gunfire, bombs, a crashing plane, and enters a car ready to explode to shake down a bad guy, then intentionally sinks a car.  And survives that.  Clancy’s SEAL team always felt real, and the version on the screen now seems simply preposterous.

The film begins with cookie cutter characters, a CIA wonk John instantly hates, a painful to watch, grim manipulator played by Jordan’s Fantastic Four co-star Jamie Bell.  His crew isn’t that impeccably prepared squad from the like of fiction military marvels like in Predator or Aliens.  Oddly enough the chemistry of those teams was far more believable and their actions more engaging.  And why is it that every time Guy Pearce (Bloodshot, Alien: Covenant) is in a movie he’s so obviously the bad guy?

The only good move was bringing in Jodie Turner-Smith (True Blood, Anne Boleyn) as Karen Greer, niece to James Earl Jones’ Admiral Greer.  But her character is too thinly conceived, and not as integral to the story as she could have been.

Clancy novels are a product of the 1980s and Clancy’s military experience and contacts.  The novels from the 1990s played on the Cold War era “nostalgia” of sorts of the Americans vs the Soviets.  The height of the stories arrives once Jack Ryan becomes President of the United States, the one key segment of the films yet to be handled at the movies or on television, notably in the novel Debt of Honor.  A sequel to Without Remorse starring Jordan is also in the works for Amazon, the adaptation of the John Clark-centric novel Rainbow Six.  As with Amazon’s Jack Ryan series, Without Remorse is difficult to muck through.  It’s most likely because they aren’t actually from the mind of Tom Clancy, but others’ efforts to try to match his style and success.  They haven’t cracked the code to making that work yet.

A thriller without thrills, without authenticity, intrigue, or grit.  Director Stefano Sollima and screenwriters Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water) and Will Staples (Disney’s The Right Stuff) left what made Clancy great on the floor.  Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is now on Amazon Prime.  Do yourself a favor and skip it, and instead catch up with or revisit the original novel, available here at Amazon.

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