The Covenant is surprisingly distinct from his typical works, and in a beneficial way. Directed by Guy Ritchie, this film is a tightly constructed military suspense, underscored by two brilliant leading performances.
The storyline revolves around John Kinley, an Army sergeant portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, who heads a special-ops team assigned to locate Taliban weapon stockpiles. A robust mechanic-turned-interpreter, Ahmed, played by Dar Salim (known mostly for his roles in European television series), is assigned to him by the military. Ahmed’s character not only provides the film’s ethical grounding but also emerges as an impressive Afghan action hero, reminiscent of Rambo.
The plot thickens when the team encounters difficulties, and only Kinley and Ahmed survive. The scene where Ahmed drags a significantly tall Gyllenhaal across a mountain range back to their base is a momentous and pivotal sequence in the film.
However, Ahmed mysteriously vanishes, and when Gyllenhaal returns to Southern California, he devotes himself to repaying his life debt to Ahmed by obtaining immigration visas for Ahmed, his wife, and his infant son. Gyllenhaal operates a surprisingly profitable vintage car restoration business there.
The Covenant is explicit in its messaging. Ahmed, representing all Afghan allies who assisted the U.S. in their fight against the Taliban, performs an act of extraordinary bravery. While the military views him as dispensable, Gyllenhaal doesn’t. The film is marked by intense emotion, primarily from Gyllenhaal. There’s an abundance of close-ups focusing on his large, blue eyes, which Ahmed remarks on in the film.
In contrast, Salim’s performance is reminiscent of Steve McQueen’s stoic demeanor. The film’s tension is somewhat compromised by Ritchie’s choice of a dramatic, violin-laden soundtrack and the distracting insertion of freeze-frame title introductions for minor soldier characters.
In the Afghanistan War, contractors played a significant role, often overshadowing conventional military forces. They were involved in a range of activities, from security operations to logistical and administrative support. Their unregulated actions, however, raised ethical questions. Equipped with advanced weaponry and operating with impunity, these private entities blurred the lines between military and civilian roles, often resulting in controversy. Despite these issues, contractors were seen as a necessary force multiplier in the complex and protracted conflict.
The film’s representation of private military contractors. Although it may be an accurate portrayal, it carries sinister undertones. Their role in this story is beneficial to the protagonists, but it leaves one questioning their real intentions and allegiance. When these contractors deploy an overwhelmingly destructive force on a convoy of Taliban fighters,
In some aspects, The Covenant is a somewhat melodramatic film, glamorizing violence. However, this film resonates with heartfelt sincerity and intelligence. It commemorates the exceptional bravery displayed by ordinary Afghans in the effort to overthrow the Taliban, acknowledging their subsequent abandonment and oppressive conditions.
The film spins a fictional tale of a single family’s escape through extraordinary courage and narrative conviction. Gyllenhaal and Salim’s performances lend authenticity to The Covenant, prompting audiences to reflect on the realities of those still trapped in Afghanistan, which might be the film’s primary intent.
IMAGE CREDIT: MGM.