HOLLYWOOD—I will be the first to admit that I love action films. There is just something about explosions, gunfire, hand-to-hand combat, exhilarating chases and anything that you think gets the adrenaline going that excites me. This might sound odd, but I have an affinity to war films loaded with action in particular. That might be a direct result of so many members of my family enlisting in the army, marines, air force or military in general. I’ve wanted to see Guy Ritchie’s “The Covenant” for quite some time, and oh, it was worth every minute.
Look, this is a two man show flick. Yes, there are other characters in this movie, but it belongs to Master Sgt. John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ahmed (Dar Salim). This movie is examining the relationship between two men who don’t quite like each other upon first meeting, but soon develop a level of respect and brotherhood (my personal feeling) as the movie progresses. I have to put this out there; Jake Gyllenhaal is a fantastic actor. He is versatile, layered and brings his all too every role he encompasses. It is just so fascinating to witness and he doesn’t disappoint here either.
This is Jake’s film. He is carries the movie from start to finish with an assist from Salim who is stellar in a supporting role, but the audience doesn’t get to learn that much about Ahmed’s character. We know he’s an Afghan interpreter and once worked with the Taliban. He has a wife and child on the way, but that is the end of it. I do wish the writers would have considered fleshing that character out just a bit more for the viewers so we can understand what makes him tick.
Ritchie gives the audience a big slice of Gyllenhaal’s Kinley. We know what makes him tick, what he likes, what he doesn’t like, we get an inside scope to his family life not to mention the level of respect he wields as a member of the U.S. Army. The narrative is cut and dry, Kinley and his team are fighting in the War in Afghanistan in 2018, their unit is ambushed and his team’s interpreter is killed. Ahmed steps in to fill the role, and there is an immediate dislike between the two gentlemen. After Ahmed delivers some Intel that protects Jake and his team from being ambushed by the Taliban, Kinley soon begins to warm up to his new interpreter.
That all changes when another ambush leads to Jake being wounded and captured by members of the Taliban, only to be rescued by Ahmed, who literally put his life on the line to safe this stranger. He manages to ensure John gets back home to the U.S. safely, but in the progress he becomes publicly enemy #1 in a country where betrayal simply put ends in disaster. Over time Jake pierces together what transpired and realizes if not for Ahmed, he would have never returned to his family, if anything he would have been dead. I’m not sharing anything that hasn’t been teased already in the trailer and TV spots, but it is still fascinating to see this drama and relationship unfold. The narrative soon turns to Kinley doing all in his power to return the favor by getting Ahmed and his family out of Afghanistan and into the U.S. with visas.
Ritchie does a phenomenal job with the pacing for a movie that clocks in a little over 2 hours, but runs so smoothly there is not a boring moment. It takes a certain level of courage for a person who just merely escaped death to put their life back on the line to return the favor to a man who is like the most wanted by the Taliban and there is a get chance one if not both of them don’t escape alive. The audience gets to see that tale unfold and the complexities that come with it. It is not as simply to get someone out of a country like Afghanistan in the middle of war where the opponent will do any and everything to secure the victory, even murdering innocent people.
I really found that dichotomy so fascinating to watch. Director Guy Ritchie does a seamless job intertwining the dangers of war with gunfire, explosions and casualties and this personal mission from both protagonists to do right by their ally even if it means putting their life on the line at the same time. “The Covenant” gets an A+ from me for showcasing a side of war that we don’t always see, the humanity of our heroes and the risks they sometimes take they tend to go unnoticed.