Guy Ritchie’s well crafted tale about the latter stages of the war in Afghanistan has arrived with very little fan fare. While we’re not quite sure why this didn’t receive a UK theatrical release in April like in the US, it has arrived 6 weeks later on streaming platform Amazon Prime Video.
It has however effectively ‘bombed’ in America only taking $17 million at the box office against its $55 million budget, which is a real shame as this is Ritchie’s best work for a number of years.
Although The Covenant is not based on a specific true story, it does cover the important issue of the many Muslim interpreters that have been left behind by the departing American troops after they were promised visa’s and entry into the US in exchange for their help.
Visa processing for the interpreters has been slow forcing many to go into hiding, resulting in hundreds of men and their families being murdered by the Taliban.
Set in 2018 and towards the end of the US occupation of Afghanistan The Covenant stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Sergeant John Kinley and Dar Salim as Ahmed. Kinley is the leader of a team who track Taliban bomb makers and explosives.
John Kinley needs to recruit a new interpreter and is recommended Ahmed by a colleague. Ahmed is described as a man that can’t be pushed around but is highly skilled and speaks 4 languages. Kinley advises Ahmed of what he is getting into simply saying “We get into trouble.”
Their relationship gets off to a rocky start when the team are searching for a Taliban bomb making factory, during an interrogation Ahmed ignores Kinley’s instructions, angering him. The tension is short lived as the team are overwhelmed by the Taliban leaving Kinley & Ahmed stranded many miles from their base.
The pair fight for survival as they make their way back to their base. They have been posted on a Taliban ‘most wanted’ list and are now being hunted from every corner.
John Kinley must also fight his own superiors in a battle to save Ahmed and his family from Taliban persecution as he tries to secure them visa’s and safe passage onto US soil.
Where this is different is the lack of glorification from a western perspective, in some of the battles the Americans are outnumbered, out flanked and the Taliban are portrayed in a more realistic way.
It shows how dangerous the war in Afghanistan was, not just for American troops but for the local men and women, highlighting the perils interpreters are now facing with the US withdrawal.
Ritchie does a good job balancing the action while telling an important story. It’s not mindless kicking in of doors and blowing away anything breathing. But the battle scenes are still compelling in a thrilling, cinematic way, which can be hard to do when telling a serious story, but Ritchie pulls this off well.
There is real emotion in this story and you feel John Kinley’s guilt as he desperately tries to fulfil his promises to Ahmed and his family and that is conveyed in great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal & Dar Salim.
Guy Ritchie does not usually get overly political and this is a far stretch from his usual crime capers. But it’s still one of his best films for years.
You can watch the Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant on Amazon Prime.