It would be easy to assume that Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant is both a war film and a retelling of real-life events, but neither is the case. Loosely based on the experiences of American soldiers and their interpreters in Afghanistan before the withdrawal of US troops in 2021, the film follows fictional Master Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his interpreter Ahmed Abdullah (Dar Salim) as they forge a reluctant bond hunting IEDs as part of a US Army task force, and later through a grueling survival ordeal as they’re pursued across kilometers of desert by unwavering Taliban militia.
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Release Date: 04/21/2023
Director: Guy Ritchie
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Videos, Redbox, Apple TV, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Vudu
While its setting in the combat zones of Afghanistan and its military dressing could easily lead viewers to believe they’re watching a war movie, structurally the film borrows more from Guy Ritchie’s experience as a competent thriller director, focusing on the pulse-pounding close-calls faced by Kinley and Abdullah instead of the effects of war on the human spirit.
The experience is one that’s intended to leave viewers on the edge of their seats, waiting to see how the protagonists will make it out alive. Firefights are directed more like action sequences, with firearms utilized in a fashion similar to Jason Bourne rather than Band of Brothers, and almost none of the supporting characters receive the same humanizing treatment given to the two leads.
But this doesn’t impact the film’s ability to provide an electrifying thrill-ride that is well worth the price of admission. While Gyllenhaal is the veteran actor we spend much of the film focused on, Dar Salim brings his A-game in a heartbreaking performance that captures the nuance and conflicting emotions Afghani citizens working with the United States military must have felt.
The film begins and ends on a poignant note, highlighting the number of interpreters contracted by the United States government during the war, and how many were left behind after the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Many of these interpreters are still in hiding today, waiting for visas promised by the United States government in exchange for their service… a promise that may never be fulfilled.
About our Admit One Author
Isaac Frankel is a freelance writer and content creator specializing in reviews and analysis of cinema, interactive media, and mythological storytelling. He was raised in Prescott, AZ, wrote his first non-fiction book in 2013 after graduating from Tribeca Flashpoint College with a degree in Game & Interactive Media Design and currently produces content for the YouTube channel: Off Screen.
More of his work and current projects can be found at www.isaacafrankel.com