The Covenant Review

Guy Ritchie’s most conventional movie in a long time is one of his best.

Score: 4/5

When I think of a Guy Ritchie movie, I expect more often than not lots of slow-mo action scenes and some zany off-the-wall characters peppered throughout. Not once did I expect a straightforward military movie centered around the injustice of Afghan citizens who helped the United States military fight the Taliban regime. Yet here we are, and honestly, Ritchie should stick to this formula for a bit because it works.

The basic premise follows Jake Gyllenhaal’s Sergeant John Kinley and his Afghani interpreter Ahmed played by Dar Salim. After a mission to find Taliban weapons and bombs goes horribly wrong, Kinley and Ahmed attempt to evade Taliban forces to get back to a United States military base. Things get worse leading Kinley to be severely injured and it is up to Ahmed to get both men safely out of enemy territory. That alone could have been the movie, but instead what becomes the main focus of the story is what happens after this heroic triumph. Kinley is sent home, and Ahmed is left behind in Afghanistan where his exploits have made him and his family top ten targets of the Taliban. Kinley feels an impossible level of guilt that Ahmed’s promised visas have become trapped in American bureaucracy leaving the man (and his family) responsible for saving his life to die. What follows is Kinley’s struggles to do whatever it takes to pay back the debt that he owes Ahmed.

It’s a simple story and one that has been done to various degrees before but through the modern lens of what happened just a couple of years prior and great acting from Gyllenhaal and Salim The Covenant kept me glued to the screen. Now I must be honest, while I did enjoy the movie, it doesn’t do anything too extraordinary. This movie won’t win awards, and it never tries to be more than what the premise demands. Sometimes though, that can be enough, especially when this movie knows what it is. Everything is very surface level is another way to put it. For me, it comes back to the same point I made earlier; the subject matter about Afghanistan, and the United States’ disappointing failure to support those who supported them, elevates this movie. The fact that this movie highlights this truth and does not shy away from the madness that is not doing the right thing for allies is infuriating. It demands that this movie be watched to tell the ‘patriot-loving-American’, that if you have a sense of honor, get this country’s government to do SOMETHING.

When it comes down to it The Covenant is a simple war movie in the tone of a Tom Clancy. The type of movie for dads and grandfathers. It’s safe in that sense, which is mind-blowing coming from Guy Ritchie. The director of movies like Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur. Yet for all that safety, the movie takes a very unsafe approach to point the finger at the viewer and ask, why aren’t you angry? We should all be, and for that alone I’d recommend this movie. The fact that there are some great actors like Gyllenhaal and Salim? That’s just icing on the cake folks.

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