Directed by Stefano Sollima (‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’), ‘Without Remorse’ is an action thriller film that revolves around a US Navy SEAL officer and his relentless pursuit of vengeance against the murderer of his pregnant wife. The story begins with Senior Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) leading other SEALs on a mission to rescue a CIA operative from what turns out to be former members of the Russian military. In response, Russian assassins come on US soil and gun down, amongst others, Kelly’s wife Pam (Lauren London).
When Kelly’s bosses tell him that the US government can’t do anything in retaliation, he embarks on the scorched path of revenge on his own. Since its release, the film has received mixed to positive reviews, with critics praising Jordan’s performance, the electrifying action sequences, and the engaging plot. The film offers an unflinching depiction of how ordinary soldiers are used as fodder in modern geopolitics. If that has made you wonder whether ‘Without Remorse’ is based on a true story, this is what we know.
Is Without Remorse Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Without Remorse’ is not based on a true story. It is the cinematic adaptation of Tom Clancy’s 1993 military fiction novel of the same name, which is part of the sprawling ‘Jack Ryan‘ universe, or Ryanverse. John Kelly (also known by the alias John Clark) made his first appearance in the ‘Jack Ryan’ books in the 1988 novel ‘The Cardinal of the Kremlin.’
‘Without Remorse’ is Kelly’s first outing as a literary protagonist. On the big screen, he has been portrayed by Willem Dafoe in ‘Clear and Present Danger’ (1994) and Liev Schreiber in ‘The Sum of All Fears’ (2002) before Jordan took up the mantle. The film was initially meant to be released in theaters, but the COVID pandemic forced the producers to change those plans. Eventually, Amazon came calling and obtained the movie’s distribution rights.
During the adaptation process, the filmmakers brought significant changes to the story to fit the current geopolitical situation. Pam, in the film, appears to be a composite character based on Kelly’s wife Patricia and his lover of the later years, also named Pam. In the book, a pregnant Patricia dies in a car accident, while Pam is killed by the drug ring she previously worked for. As a result, the book Kelly’s desire for vengeance leads him to a drug ring in Baltimore and its vicious leader, Henry Tucker, and not the apparent Russian assassins of the film.
Furthermore, the book is set in the 1970s, and much of the plot takes place in Vietnam. On the other hand, the film starts in war-torn Syria, and Kelly’s pursuit of one of his wife’s killers ultimately takes him to Russia. So, there is an update in the story’s setting as well. In an interview, Clancy described Kelly as someone who is “more inclined to take physical action than Jack [Ryan] is.” And that holds true for Jordan’s rendition of the character as well. While ‘Without Remorse’ depicts a fictionalized world of international espionage and clandestine military operation, a part of it is rooted in the harsh reality of how various governments treat their own soldiers.
Despite being a lucrative topic in most political scenes, veterans and active personnel, in various countries, encounter abject apathy from the lawmakers once the elections are over. The governments rarely take responsibility for the sacrifices that soldiers make every day for their countries. And if there are bigger stakes involved, as they are in ‘Without Remorse,’ some governments simply accept the deaths of the soldiers and their loved ones as collateral damage. Clearly, ‘Without Remorse’ is not inspired by real events, but it is understandable why someone might believe it is.
Read More: Without Remorse Ending, Explained