Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant follows US Army Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Afghan interpreter Ahmed (Dar Salim). After an ambush, Ahmed goes to Herculean lengths to save Kinley’s life. When Kinley learns that Ahmed and his family were not given safe passage to America as promised, he must repay his debt by returning to the war zone to retrieve them before the Taliban hunts them down first.
What We Thought:
The Covenant is quite the departure for Guy Ritchie. The director is known more for British gangster films than he is gritty war pieces. If I hadn’t known this was a Guy Ritchie film, I would have thought it was something from Peter Berg or Kathryn Bigelow. I’ve been a fan of his since the beginning so I really enjoyed seeing him do something completely out of his wheelhouse. It’s also a really good movie on top of it.
I’m not a veteran, but have a lot of veteran friends and support veteran causes. Having seen the documentary Send Me about the collapse of Afghanistan and veterans going into the country to rescue Americans and our allies who fought side by side with us, I was completely into the concept of this film. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a soldier whose life is saved by his Afghani interpreter (brilliantly played by Dar Salim). When the interpreter is put on the Taliban’s hit list for saving the American’s life, Gyllenhaal feels obligated to go back and save his and his family’s lives.
Now I will say that the trailer for the film makes it seem like most of the movie will be about Gyllenhaal’s Kinley trying to save Salim’s Ahmed, but a lot of the movie is about what took place beforehand. Kinley and his squad are ambushed by the Taliban and Ahmed goes out of his way to save the wounded Kinley. That’s a big chunk of the flick. It reminded me a lot of Lone Survivor which is fine by me because I enjoyed that movie.
It’s not until Kinley gets back to the States and recovers that it becomes about his attempt to get visas for Ahmed’s family and ultimately heading back into Afghanistan to save him. This is the most frustrating part of the film from a realism point of view. Seeing the hoops Kinley has to go through, the hours on hold, the people he had to push to get the visas is soul crushing. This man saved him and the red tape and politics to keep him from being beheaded is disgusting. In real life we’re almost 2 years beyond leaving Afghanistan and we still have allies being hung out to dry because of politics.
But it’s the action sequences that really stood out to me. The beginning and ambush scenes are perfectly balanced with violence and drama. You feel like you’re one of the boots on the ground in the heart of the action. It easily rivals Lone Survivor or The Hurt Locker in these sequences. Then the third act with Kinley heading back there to save Ahmed is equally impressive if just a bit rushed. The final sequence on the dam is impressive and realistic. The only issue I have with the action is I didn’t see one magazine change in the entire film. Characters run out of ammo, pick up other weapons and check if they have ammo, but you don’t see one mag change throughout. How does not one character reload in 6 or 7 fire fights?
I can see Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant being one of my favorite films of 2023. I really enjoyed it. I thought Gyllenhaal and Salim had great chemistry together and was impressed with Ritchie’s action direction. It’s a really different look for Ritchie and I hope he does more of it. Salim gives one of the best performances of the year so far and it’s filled with a solid supporting cast. If you liked films like Lone Survivor, Black Hawk Down, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty then this is…
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Guy Ritchie and Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies
Produced by: Guy Ritchie, p.g.a., Ivan Atkinson, p.g.a., John Friedberg, Josh Berger
Executive Producers: Samantha Waite, Olga Filipuk, Robert Simonds, Adam Fogelson
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dar Salim, Antony Starr, Alexander Ludwig, Bobby Schofield, with Emily Beecham and Jonny Lee Miller
Rated: R for violence, language throughout and brief drug content
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