In 1993, Tom Clancy, the creator of Jack Ryan, wrote Without Remorse, a novel that was the origin story for a character he had introduced in 1987: John Clark. Clark is an ex-Navy SEAL who later works for the CIA. When Jack Ryan became President of the United States in the 1994 novel Debt of Honor, John Clark served under him as director of Rainbow, a multinational counterterrorism unit.
In the book Without Remorse, Clancy gave us Clark’s backstory. Before he was John Clark, he was John Kelly, a Navy SEAL who served in the Vietnam War. The upcoming Amazon Original movie Without Remorse is based on this book, but makes several updates. For starters, the film shifts from the Vietnam War to contemporary times.
In the film, we first see Michael B. Jordan, who stars as John Kelly, in Aleppo, Syria, where he’s on a mission to rescue a CIA operative who’s been taken hostage. The opening scene is an action sequence where the CIA team, led by officer Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell), infiltrate the enemy forces in an old building and save their operative.
Later, in America, there are three attacks on members of the team. In one, Kelly’s pregnant wife Pamela (Lauren London) is killed. He manages to kill three of her attackers, but the fourth escapes. Tracking him down forms the rest of the film. A series of killings later, Kelly’s search lands him in Russia, where he is greeted with unexpected twists. Kelly must save himself and his team, and eventually adopt his new identity of John Clark.
The character of Clark has previously been played on screen in two Jack Ryan films: Willem Dafoe starred as Clark in Clear and Present Danger (1994) and Liev Schreiber played him in The Sum of All Fears (2002). But this is the first time Clark is front and centre. Jordan inaugurates the John Clark franchise with this two-film series. The second film will be Rainbow Six, based on the 1998 Tom Clancy novel of the same name. Rainbow Six is set up (in the hallowed tradition of the Hollywood superhero film) in a mid-credits scene at the end of Without Remorse.
Without Remorse is an archetypal action thriller: the foreign locations (Syria, Russia), the wounded hero on a revenge mission, the inventive stunts (here, Kelly steps into a burning car at one point – a stunt Jordan trained for and performed himself) – it’s all here. There are also lengthy action sequences, of course, cloaked in fog, scored with explosions and gunshots.
The film is directed by Stefano Sollima (who previously directed several action films, including Sicario: Day of the Soldado, and the Amazon Prime Video show ZeroZeroZero) and written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. It was originally intended for a theatrical release in 2020, but will now come straight to Amazon Prime Video worldwide on April 30th.
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