A Covenant is described as a strong, solemn bond between two parties.
There have been a lot of blunders in the short two-and-a-half-year run of Joe Biden’s presidency, but one of the biggest missteps has been, arguably without question, the withdrawal of Afghanistan.
The botched 2021 withdrawal of US troops from the Middle Eastern country was one of many things that got memory holed during the age of COVID; its fallout, however, is very real.
Under the guise that we were fighting George Bush’s War on Terror, the United States entered Afghanistan two decades ago. The second the US gave up the land that we had occupied, however, it went right back into the hands of the Taliban — the enemy that we were fighting from the beginning.
While the media has ignored the fallout, the residents of Afghanistan have not. The New York Times reports that “nearly 500 former government officials and members of the Afghan security forces were killed or forcibly disappeared during the Taliban’s first six months in power.”
Hundreds of people who helped the United States only to watch the country turn their back on them, which leaves us to The Covenant, English filmmaker Guy Ritchie’s latest film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim.
Set during the occupation of Afghanistan, the film sees United States Army Sergeant John Kinley (Gyllenhaal) teaming up with Ahmed (Salim) — a trusted interpreter who offers his services to help in the search of a Taliban-owned weapons depot.
John has a hard time trusting Ahmad seeing how the translator handles more information than any other person in his position should. It turns out that Ahmed is a former member of the Taliban who left the militant movement after the Islamist organization killed his son — prompting him to take the job as an interpreter.
He hopes that he can get a Visa with the United States and move his wife out of the region and outside of hostile territory. After a mission goes wrong leaving only John and Ahmed the only two alive, The duo is forced to survive the elements inside hostile territory and far away from anyone who can help them.
This is the beginning of a bond between the two strengthened by the model no man left behind. For those who are used to Guy Ritchie’s corky ensemble cast films full of colorful characters, this is a complete 180 for what you are used to.
The film is a story about the extreme length of friendship, trust, and loyalty tested under impossible situations. Jake Gyllenhaal, who is one of the strongest actors in Hollywood going today gives a stellar performance on a film that lives and dies on the on-screen Chemistry Between and it’s co-star Dar Salim.
Gyllenhaal admitted that the script was only 50 pages long meaning that he carries the on screen chemistry that makes the movie. Dar Salim’s portrayal of Ahmed holds his own compared to Gyllenhaal as he plays a more stoic hero whose job is to sell the theme of the story.
Salim represents the people of Afghanistan who find themselves in the middle of two hostile forces. Much like the South Korean film The Point Men that was released earlier this year, Afghanistan is once again the backdrop of an international incident between the Taliban and Allied Forces.
The cinematic difference between these movies is that, while The Point Men was filmed in Jordan to give more of a Middle East aesthetic, Guy Ritchie opted to film in Spain to bring the region to life in The Covenant — making use of remarkable set and costume design.
The über-realistic setting is what sets the film apart from others tackling similar themes. While not outright political in its affiliation, The Covenant absolutely slams the US government’s incompetency on a military and bureaucratic level.
The fallout of this mess has led to nothing but death and destruction for those who fought in the wars and for those who were a witness to it. The biggest knock on this film is that the film losing steam in the 3rd act as it shifts from the initial escape from Afghanistan to Gyllenhaal’s character being forced to go back to save a friend who was left behind.
It causes an otherwise strong film to lag on about 15 minutes too long by telling the protagonist’s side of the story about 90 minutes into the runtime. Pacing issues aside, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant is one of the strongest movies that he has directed in the last few years.
Richie has a reputation for being a hit and miss director however his last four films have all solidly been in the hit column and this one is no different.
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