I love to read, but I can say I never dived deep into Tom Clancy’s books. I often found him too wrapped up in the details and his pacing too slow. I can see the appeal, especially among military nerds. Even though I was never a Clancy fan, I was a fan of Without Remorse. Clancy’s books often deal with these huge plots full of political intrigue and high stakes. Without Remorse did not, it was a rather small story in which there were no world-shifting consequences.
Without Remorse told a story of vengeance and what happens when a very capable man runs across some very bad people. It’s the origin story of John Clark the Yin to Jack Ryan’s Yang in many ways. We see where John Clark came from and how he became the badass we know him as.
When Amazon announced it would be creating a Without Remorse film, and I was stoked. Since the Jack Ryan series was fun, and I was excited.
Well, after being pushed back a few times, the movie finally dropped on April 30, 2021. That night I popped some corn, poured myself a beer, and kicked back. Be warned! This is your spoiler notice.
As a Without Remorse Adaption
As the credits rolled, I sat there rather annoyed. This is not an adaptation of Without Remorse. It has almost nothing in common with the novel. I understand that anytime you turn a book into a film, you lose things and things change, but the general story is usually the same. However, Without Remorse has nothing in common with the novel besides the name and the fact it’s a John Kelly/Clark origin story.
We can accept some changes for the story’s sake, like the modern setting. However, that’s not the issue. The film adaptation is not even a skeleton of the novel, rather, it’s a pile of bones with pieces missing.
Instead of killing human traffickers in the streets of the United States, he’s fighting “Russians” (or maybe not!) across the world. The “Russians” targeted his wife, himself, and other members of his SEAL team for murder, and it’s up to John to get his vengeance. In the novel, John works alone; in the movie, he’s working with a SEAL team, sanctioned by the secretary of Defense.
It goes from a small revenge story to a film with massive stakes, including a potential third world war. Therefore, by tacking on giant stakes it loses the charm of the original novel. Those world-ending stakes kill any tension that comes from the vengeance motive. It becomes less personal, and John Kelly/Clark becomes just another SEAL in this team of SEALs. I found myself not caring the moment their mission to Russia started.
What It Got Right
There are some good parts to Without Remorse, and I’ll give Michael B. Jordan credit. He’s an intense actor, and he’s a good John Kelly/Clark. He nails a sense of determination and willpower. We get a short treatment of him working alone to get vengeance and it’s the best part of the movie. However, it’s way too short.
The weapon’s handling lives up to modern expectations. When the SEALs clear rooms, it looks good; they look well versed in their weapons and work. Throughout the movie, they are portrayed as competent gunfighters.
Although, one hugely annoying part is the conversation two characters have in a firefight. The bad guys are literally feet away, shooting at them with AKs, and they are calmly discussing in hushed tones something that could wait.
SEALs are waterborne commandos, and in most movies, we rarely get to see that side of them. In Without Remorse, there are three scenes where water is integral and allows the frogmen to stretch their fins.
As a Plain Old Movie
It’s an okay action movie. If you removed the title, it could stand on its own, and I would have no idea it was a Without Remorse adaption. There are some cool set pieces, like a sinking plane that breaks up the action scene, which provide danger other than bullets flying at the good guys.
When good guys fight bad guys, it’s fun to watch and the action delivers a good visceral thrill. However, some of the dialogue and acting are not good. Even Michael B. Jordan delivers some flat lines wrapped in cheesy dialogue.
Additionally, the pacing is weird. Only one side character seemingly has an arc. On the whole, it feels like it’s trying to set up a sequel more than be a good movie. It’s also predictable. Even its “twist” is predictable and nothing noteworthy.
The movie is a mess, but if you wanna turn your brain off and have background noise, then Without Remorse is for you.
It’s sad to see the adaptation stray so far from an excellent premise. Yet, here we are. We don’t necessarily have a score for movies on SOFREP, so I give it 2.5 out of 7.
If you’re already paying for Amazon, I guess it’s worth a watch if you want some cheap action. But if you value your time, read the book instead.