Situating the bulk of its action in 2019, “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” updates Clancy’s 1993 novel by opening with a prologue in Aleppo, Syria, and making reference to the Russian military presence in the country. But the geopolitics and relative lack of cyber-anything otherwise date the movie to a barely post-Cold War period, while the plot mechanics grind along like holdovers from Charles Bronson’s heyday.
Michael B. Jordan plays John Kelly, a Navy SEAL whose pregnant wife (Lauren London) is killed when Russian operatives invade their home, intending to terminate him. A sympathetic colleague from the SEALs (Jodie Turner-Smith) and the defense secretary (Guy Pearce) relax protocol to help Kelly get revenge, but a C.I.A. official (Jamie Bell) gets peeved, signaling to viewers that he’s secretly working for the other side — or at least that the screenwriters, Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, need them to think that. (Either way, Bell could dial down the superciliousness.)
The director, Stefano Sollima (“Sicario: Day of the Soldado”), manages the proceedings with a minimum of zest, relying on a score by Jonsi (of Sigur Ros) for ambient energy. Even the visuals are gray and indifferent, and the briefer-than-expected running time does not correspond to a brisk pace.
Three set pieces — an ambush outside Dulles airport; a creatively executed hostage-taking at a prison; a plane crash — elevate the movie’s pulse, but most of “Without Remorse” is surprisingly dull, more concerned with laying franchise groundwork than with being exciting on its own terms. Jordan makes a sturdy enough action hero, but the character as portrayed doesn’t give him any contours to play.
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse
Rated R. The human toll of espionage. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes. Watch on Amazon Prime Video.
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