In the last five years, few screenwriters have managed to generate as much excitement as Taylor Sheridan. He first got on people’s radars with his script for Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, followed those up with screenplays for David Mackenzie's Hell Or High Water, and Wind River (which was also his directorial debut), and most recently has created a massive fan base with the series Yellowstone. He’s been away from the world of features for a few years now, but that streak ends with the arrival of Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse – which director Stefano Sollima says had important contributions from the writer that were key to the movie’s success.
Sollima and Taylor Sheridan previously had the opportunity to collaborate on 2018’s Sicario: Day Of The Soldado, and so I felt compelled to ask about their reunion for the new action movie. I asked the director about the evolution of the project and Sheridan’s input earlier this month during the new release’s virtual press day, and he explained how much the project changed and why the screenwriter was an important part of the film:
I mean, it changed a lot because when I came on board, we had a script that was written by Shawn Ryan. Do you remember, the creator of The Shield, and it was written in the early nineties. So, I mean, of course I pitched my vision that was pretty radical because I wanted to modernize the story. And, of course, it wasn't easy. And then I already worked with Taylor Sheridan and I knew that he was the perfect writer because we share... we have a lot of we have a common taste in how to pay attention to the psychological evolution of a character and to be really accurate in the geopolitical description. So we changed it a lot, and our story it's different from the book.
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is actually a film that was in the works for multiple decades before finally getting made, as the rights to it were sold the same year that the book of the same name was published: 1993. In that time many actors (including Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Gary Sinese, and Tom Hardy) and many filmmakers (including John Milius, Shawn Ryan, and Christopher McQuarrie) were attached to make the movie, but none of those versions were able to come together. And unfortunately as the years passed, the specific subject matter in the source material became less and less relevant in the modern world.
As Stefano Sollima noted, this was a big issue that the production had to deal with as the latest incarnation was coming together – and Taylor Sheridan proved to be an important piece in the puzzle getting the project in a place where it could be the first version to actually go into principal photography. Having previously worked with the writer, the director knew that his voice would not only be right for the characters, but also the plot, and the work paid off.
Taking its title from the Tom Clancy book but relatively little else, Without Remorse is a kind of origin story for the hero John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan), who begins the film executing a final mission for the CIA as an active Navy SEAL. Tragically his retirement is cut short when consequences from the last assignment take away everything he loves, and Kelly becomes entirely fueled by revenge and the desire to hunt down those responsible.
Co-starring Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Guy Pearce, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse arrives on Amazon Prime this Friday, April 30 – and you can check out what else is available on the streaming service via our Amazon Prime Video guide for April 2021