When the character Thomas Clay played by Guy Pearce, talks to Michael B Jordan’s John Kelly explaining how a country like the USA needs something like a war to keep its people unified against a common enemy, you sort of realize the dark spaces behind the wars we witness in this world. But sadly, in Without Remorse, the emphasis on this political aspect of the theme is pretty minimal. The ultimate result feels like your template revenge story where the hero is seeking redemption, and you can sort of predict who will be the bad guys and who will be the good ones at a very early stage.
The movie begins in Syria, where our hero John Kelly is part of an extraction mission. But by the end of the task, he realizes that it wasn’t really an extraction mission as briefed. After returning home post the mission, a planned attack happens on Kelly and fellow soldiers who were part of that mission, and Kelly loses his pregnant wife, Pam, in that attack. Kelly’s efforts to find the people behind the whole thing is what we see in Without Remorse.
What makes the movie engaging to an extent is the way the action has been designed. The gunshots and fistfights have that authentic feel to their credit, and you feel as clueless and helpless as those soldiers in the mission. But when it comes to the structuring of the story, the writing is struggling to break the conventional pattern. Some of the characterizations are so outdated that the moment you see certain characters, you will be able to guess which side they will be on by the time the movie ends.
Stefano Sollima is trying his best to cover up the writing flaws by creating visuals that have this immersive feel to them. Philippe Rousselot’s cinematography plays a crucial role in creating that moody and intense ambiance. Some of the set pieces in the movie get a very dark treatment, and the visuals weren’t desperate to make them feel humongous. Like I already said, if the war philosophy you hear towards the end of the film had a better space in the movie, things would have been different. Even a cliched revenge tale can get a new perspective when the conflict is presented peculiarly. Writers Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples are more interested in creating a wounded hero. The scope of the movie to be a dilemma-driven political statement was not used effectively.
As John Kelly, Michael B Jordan has that heat and energy in him. It’s a character that demands more of this action hero attitude for a majority of its screen time. Yet, Jordan manages to add that element of vulnerability into that character. Jodie Turner-Smith gets to play a vital role in the movie as the supportive superior of Kelly. Guy Pearce is memorable in a part that uses his influential aura.
If a predictable story with fights and blasts is acceptable for you, Without Remorse is that kind of a movie. Looking at the way the movie has ended, a sequel is there on the cards for sure. I hope they will find more intense and humane spaces in the sequel rather than merely focusing on the blasts and heroics.
If a predictable story with fights and blasts is acceptable for you, Without Remorse is that kind of a movie.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended