It seems like during this pandemic, we’ve gotten so many war movies that have taken over the priority of advertisers, ever since superheroes (well, somewhat) took a back seat as they wait out the pandemic. I watched Without Remorse, and the time went by quickly, and I wouldn’t mind if I had to watch it again. I’m also grateful for some choices it makes. But it adds very little to an already crowded table. I’d basically already watched this a few months ago with Outside The Wire.
Deciding to go in fresh, I watched no trailers. Well, there were ones during ads but I wasn’t paying attention. Michael B. Jordan plays John Kelly, a navy seal for the CIA who has a wife Pam (Lauren London) and a daughter on the way. After a successful extraction job, several CIA operatives involved with the mission are gunned down on U.S. soil, and though Kelly survives a home invasion and kills most of the intruders, his wife ends up collateral damage. At least that’s how the CIA is treating her gruel murder. One of the intruders got away, and someone from Russia ordered the attack. And Kelly’s going to go after them, under supervision or not.
That’s about all I can say without big spoilers, and it’s still a pretty loaded description of what happens here.
Now, I’d already gotten a little taste of Tom Clancy. I haven’t read any of his books yet, so obviously I haven’t read the book this is based on, but I’ve watched some Jack Ryan adaptations. The worst one was the Shadow Recruit movie starring Chris Pine, a thriller I barely remember. Then there were two seasons of the John Krasinski TV show from Prime. And as entertaining as the first one was, I felt its final message was Middle Easterners can be bombed into oblivion, and if they fight back they deserve no mercy, that it’s okay for the West to throw the first punch. The second one was much better, standing for much better values on what is politically and economically best for regular people. Tom Clancy’s material was always centred around the military, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
This new movie begins not promisingly. It takes place in a Syria with so much ash, dust, ruin and death not even a sewer rat could survive there, with gunfire and contraband aplenty as they rescue an injured hostage taken by the big, nasty terrorists. I was worried it would just be another we-shot-at-them-they-shot-better-they-must-pay story with no proper context. But that’s not the route it goes. It goes the route I just freakin’ explained.
And said route is still far from untraveled. (Though Jamie Bell is also in this film and he and Jordan were in that Fantastic Four movie.) Anyways, let’s get the bad stuff in the flick out of the way. Some of the movie is unrealistic even for a war thriller, such as a source unwillingly revealing a name at gunpoint while already about to die anyway. It also telegraphs a final twist quite blatantly, and I really don’t know what is up with a scene where a character stays in a car filled with water on the bottom of the river. Even if this protagonist was done with life anyway, with nothing left to fight for, drowning is one of the worst deaths imaginable and the body always goes into survival mode. And then there’s a twist on that, and a very unrealistic one. How could that person know exactly where the car would be and how would they get to him so fast? I can understand doing a lot of preplanning but there so could’ve been a less silly strategy.
Now for the good. With another bad. Even if more characters than not are one-note paper thin, there’s a strong main cast with Jordan, Bell, and Jodie Turner-Smith, an actress who deserves to have the universe pay attention to her skills. And now for another bad. Even if there’s a slight sense of xenophobia at the start, it does not depict war as good. This was the biggest thing. I’m sick and tired of movies that say all people from the Middle East are barbarians out to kill and deserve to be bombed. I’m sick and tired of movies that promote relentlessness and suspicion. The movie’s main big battlefield is in Russia, and it never suggests the people there are bad, it suggests the minority who want war and the tyrants running the country are bad, and it also doesn’t rule out America as having people just like that either. In fact, a big part of the movie is the desire for some Americans to have a world of intolerance, and the ability to really recognize it is one of the main reasons I’m recommending it.
It’s also fun enough. I especially enjoyed a plane crash scene with tiny underwater air pockets and everything, plus a tense moment between Jordan and Bell that involves a gunshot, but it’s not how it usually is. The mission-gone-wrong idea it implements is also straightforward and yet has just enough spunk to feel clever. Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, or you can just call it Without Remorse, since Tom Clancy couldn’t have been involved with this production unless he’s a ghost giving filmmaking suggestions, is not set out to be masterful or original filmmaking. It’s quite familiar. But you can have a good time and it doesn’t make you feel guilty doing so.
If you like this, I’d try Outside The Wire, and some of the other work Tom Clancy has his name on