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Tom Clancy's Without Remorse Ending Explained

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Tom Clancy's Without Remorse ends with Navy SEAL Senior Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) uncovering exactly who is behind an international conspiracy to start a war between the United States and Russia. As a result, John Kelly "died" and took on the new identity of John Clark, as he became a rogue operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. Directed by Stefano Sollima, Without Remorse is based upon the 1993 Tom Clancy novel but the film is a reboot and the origin story of John Kelly/Clark set in the Jack Ryan movie universe.

The third act of Without Remorse is an ultraviolent shootout in Murmansk, Russia, where John Kelly's target, Victor Rykov (Brett Gelman) revealed that they were both being used as pawns in the conspiracy that originated in Washington D.C. Rykov committed suicide as planned, which forced Kelly and his team, including Lt. Commander Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith), to engage the Russian Police in a firefight. Kelly was able to cause a distraction that allowed Greer and their extraction team to escape, and the wounded John then had to fight his way out of the apartment building to make it to the rendezvous point. After they all made it out safely, Kelly realized that CIA agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell), who he suspected throughout the film, wasn't his enemy after all. Ritter then arranged a cover story that Kelly died in Russia so that John could return to D.C. and face the real mastermind behind the plot: Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce).

RELATED:Tom Clancy's Without Remorse Cast & Characters Guide

While it carries the Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan pedigree of geopolitics and international intrigue, Without Remorse is far more focused on blisteringly violent action. The film's potboiler plot takes a back seat to the gunplay and fisticuffs where John Kelly endures (and dishes out) an inhuman amount of punishment in his search for the truth. As a result, the bulk of Without Remorse's conspiracy is explained by the characters to each other towards the end of the film, and while the plotline isn't complex or fully fleshed-out, it has intriguing ideas that ably explains why John Kelly decides to become a "ghost" and a rogue operative named John Clark.

Secretary Clay Wanted To Start A War Between The US & Russia

Secretary Clay orchestrated all of the tragic events in Without Remorse. Clay influenced the CIA into helping him escalate tensions between the United States and Russia, hoping to start a war. Whether Clay would have been satisfied with another Cold War or if he wanted actual military conflict between the two superpowers isn't clear, but he was firm in his belief that the US and its people need an equally powerful enemy "who can threaten their freedoms". Clay's rationale that the current political climate has half the country seeing the other half as the enemy is a pointed social commentary on the real-world tensions in the U.S., and the Secretary was adamant that the solution is turning the clock back decades to when America was united against the Russians (which was the Soviet Union back then).

At the start of Without Remorse, John Kelly's SEAL Team was set up by the CIA in Syria when Ritter lied to them that the enemy combatants during their extraction mission. Kelly and Greer were told they were fighting Syrians, not Russians, but it was all part of the greater plot. The attack on Russians in Syria provoked a response, which was Russians led by Victor Rykov killing Kelly's teammates Rowdy (Luke Mitchell) and Webb (Cam Gigandet), as well as Kelly being attacked at home, which resulted in the murder of his pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London). This sent Kelly on a bloody mission of vengeance where he found out the lone assassin who escaped from his home was Victor Rykov. However, Rykov revealed when Kelly tracked him in Murmansk that he was actually a CIA agent, so the hit on Kelly's team and family was part of the CIA op ordered by Secretary Clay.

How Victor Rykov Was Part Of Secretary Clay's Plan & John Kelly's Revenge

The point of luring Kelly to Murmansk with Rykov as the bait was to set up an international incident where American soldiers staged an attack on Russian soil, which would further fan the flames of Clay's planned USA vs Russia war. Even before Kelly and his team made it to Murmansk, Clay had the CIA tip off the Russians that the airplane posing as a commercial flight carrying Kelly was en route so that the Russians could shoot it down. When Kelly and his team survived, the next stage was Rykov luring them to the apartment and then kill himself with a suicide vest, setting off a Russian police response. But what Clay didn't count on was Kelly and his entire team surviving, as well as Ritter piecing together the Secretary's plan and helping Kelly.

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Ritter gave Kelly a duffel bag full of money and his and Greer's official report stated that John was killed in action in Murmansk. Now that he's a "ghost", Kelly slipped back into Washington D.C. and kidnapped Secretary Clay to force a confession, which he secretly recorded. Kelly then drove his SUV into the Potomac River so that Clay drowned while Greer rescued John. At Kelly's "funeral", Clay's "treasonous acts" were publicly revealed so John Kelly managed to prevent Clay's war between the U.S. and Russia.

John Kelly Is "Dead" & He Became John Clark

At the end of Without Remorse, Lt. Commander Greer gave John his new, CIA-issued false identification and the Agency gave him the uncreative name of John Clark. Officially, John Kelly died in Murmansk and he had a state funeral. John Clark is now a CIA black-ops agent operating with no official capacity. But with no family left, this is the future Clark chose because it means he can go to work stopping further schemes by men in power like Secretary Clay. When Kelly and Clay were at the bottom of the Potomac, John had a dream where he said goodbye to Pam and his old life for good.

John Kelly was a patriot who believed in the contract he signed when he joined the Navy where he pledged to defend his country. The events of Without Remorse broke John's faith in the United States, which used him as a pawn. When he was hunting Victor Rykov, he believed the Russian was a powerful member of the FSB (Russia's Federal Security Service and the successor to the KGB). Kelly was shocked to learn that Rykov was also CIA, and that they were both pawns. John imagined himself to be "a pawn hunting a king" when he hunted Rykov, but with Ritter and Greer's help, Kelly realized the "king" he should have been hunting all along was Secretary Clay.

Robert Ritter's Role & How He Became CIA Director

Without Remorse blatantly used Robert Ritter as a red herring. Since he was keeping secrets from John Kelly, who didn't trust Ritter, the audience was meant to also suspect Ritter was the big bad pulling the strings. But while Ritter is deceitful and manipulative, he was also aware of the shady events going on between the CIA and the Department of Defense headed by Secretary Clay, but he kept quiet until he could gather enough intel. Ritter was also intent on climbing the ladder in the CIA and he knew how to manipulate events to ensure his own promotion to the top spot in the Agency.

RELATED:Screen Rant's Without Remorse Movie Review

Ritter didn't get on the plane to Russia with Kelly, Greer, and their extraction team because he knew that the CIA arranged to have it shot down. Ritter traveled separately to Russia and recruited paid operatives to find Rykov since he expected Kelly's team to be dead. When Kelly turned up and accused Ritter of being a traitor, the CIA agent realized that there was something else going on and Rykov wasn't the real target of the op. After Kelly's extraction team survived the firefight with the Russian police, Ritter realized who the good guys really were and it confirmed that Clay was behind it all. Ritter arranged transport back to the States as well as coming up with the story that John Kelly died in Russia so he could get Clay's confession. Ritter then leveraged the recording of Clay for "a favor": His own promotion to CIA Director.

How Without Remorse Sets Up Rainbow Six

Without Remorse's mid-credits scene takes place one year later. John Clark meets Ritter on the grounds of the Washington Memorial and congratulates him on his promotion to CIA Director. Clark then revealed he'd been thinking about the events of the prior year and John pitched his new idea to stop what Clay did from happening again: "a multinational counter-terrorist team made up of U.S., U.K., and hand-selected NATO personnel, with the full support of the national intelligence services." Clark intends to lead this new team that he codenamed Rainbow for "personal" reasons, and he announced his intention to present this plan to the President, while tacitly asking Ritter for the CIA's backing.

This stinger is a direct setup for Without Remorse's sequel, Rainbow Six. Producer Akiva Goldsman's plan was to produce two John Clark films so that Without Remorse led into Rainbow Six, and Michael B. Jordan signed on to star in both. It's likely that Jamie Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith will reprise their Without Remorse roles as Robert Ritter and Lt. Commander Greer in Rainbow Six. But given the team Clark proposed, Tom Clancy fans can also expect a whole new international group of special operatives backing John Clark up in Rainbow Six

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