Through the Herculean efforts of Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim, Guy Ritchie’s THE COVENANT is a gripping film exposing the horrors of the Afghanistan War, including the shamefulness of leaving behind the Afghan interpreters who risked their lives to aid U.S. soldiers. This action-thriller is quite a departure for Ritchie who directs, produces and is a co-writer with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies.
U.S. Army Sgt. John Kinley (Gyllenhaal) has just lost an Afghan interpreter to a truck bombing. His new recruit, Ahmed (Salim), is seeking revenge and possible relocation to the United States for himself and his pregnant wife, Basira (Fariba Sheikhan). Ahmed is smart, eager to please --- and desperate to stay alive for his family.
Acting upon some questionable information, Kinley’s platoon is surrounded in the desert by the Taliban and sustains many casualties. Kinley himself is hit, but Ahmed rescues him before he is captured and literally drags him in a makeshift carrier across the mountains to escape.
Kinley eventually makes it back to the states and recovers with the help of his very supportive wife, Caroline (Emily Beecham). After learning that Ahmed and his wife and child are still hiding in Afghanistan and fearing for their lives, Kinley prevails upon his former C.O., Colonel Vokes (Jonny Lee Miller), to intervene.
Despite hours on the phone and frantic pleas, Kinley is constantly rebuffed. He decides to take matters into his own hands and returns to Afghanistan to find Ahmed and get them all back to the U.S.
Ritchie’s last few films, OPERATION FORTUNE, WRATH OF MAN and THE GENTLEMEN, have also been action-thrillers, two of which contained significant amounts of humor. THE COVENANT is distinctly different in its efforts to showcase the horrific treatment of the Afghan interpreters who gave up so much to help the United States. Though this endeavor is not based on one true story, it’s an amalgamation of many accounts of these incredibly brave men and women who risked their lives.
As Americans, we should be outraged that so many were left stranded and then hunted by the Taliban. THE COVENANT forces us to sit up and take notice with an excellent screenplay by Ritchie, Atkinson and Davies. The action is intense --- and believable. The prolonged transport of Kinley by Ahmed is as nerve-jangling as any rescue in recent memory.
And the success of THE COVENANT lies squarely with the amazing performances from Gyllenhaal and Salim. Their portrayals are stellar --- it’s obvious each of them took great pains to research others like the Kinley and Ahmed characters. These two men were basically strangers and yet the moral compass of each aligned to save the other. Gyllenhaal and Salim restore our faith in humanity with their intensity --- and dedication to the story.
Guy Ritchie’s THE COVENANT is a fine piece of filmmaking. If you’re a fan of his work, you will not be disappointed.
Opinion: See It Now!
I cannot recall my writing partner ever sitting on the edge of her seat --- literally --- while watching a movie. Until now.
Guy Ritchie’s THE COVENANT is two hours of pure adrenaline as we wait for this remarkable story to unfold. There is no comic relief in director Ritchie’s latest effort because there is nothing humorous about the murderous thugs who call themselves the Taliban.
Jake Gyllenhaal is quietly electrifying as Sergeant John Kinley. His mission --- and that of his small squad of incredibly brave soldiers in Afghanistan --- is to locate and destroy enemy munitions, specifically IEDs (interactive explosive devices).
Gyllenhaal renders his usual wired-in performance, particularly when he confronts his superior officer, Colonel Vokes (Jonny Lee Miller). The issue at hand is a matter of securing U.S. visas so that his Afghani interpreter --- hunted by the Taliban --- can escape to America with his family.
Ahmed the interpreter is brilliantly portrayed by Iraq-born actor Dar Salim. Ahmed is vilified by some of his countrymen who view him as a traitor, but his motive in joining forces with Sgt. Kinley is a powerful one. THE COVENANT focuses on Kinley and Salim when they are separated from their troops and must negotiate the rough terrain while eluding their pursuers.
The film is all about repaying one’s debt to another human being, a debt so all-consuming that it is impossible to sleep at night. It is a debt so all-encompassing that its importance rivals anything else in life, even one’s own family, if only temporarily. Emily Beecham plays Kinley’s wife Caroline. It’s a small but important role as she supports his decision to do the right thing.
Scribes Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies --- frequent collaborators with Ritchie ---co-wrote the script along with the director. There is no written source material for the film, and it is not directly based on a true story. But other accounts indicate the film incorporates actual battlefield conditions that affected the lives of interpreters.
Ritchie spends a good deal of time building the relationships amongst the soldiers, especially Ahmed and Kinley. And his strategy works perfectly as we are swept up in the courage, dedication and sacrifice displayed by two men who barely know each other. Guy Ritchie’s THE COVENANT is a highly emotional journey that is impossible to dismiss.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!