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Kandahar is located in the middle of geopolitical and human rights issues in the Middle East. The story follows an undercover operative and his translator who are trying to escape Afghanistan after their cover is blown. Different perspectives are shown as various factions attempt to capture the Western spies. The plot is over-complicated and bogs down at times. But there are slick action scenes, like a thrilling helicopter chase through the night, that save it from being dull. It’s a conflict-driven firestorm told with respect for Islamic religious views.

In Iran, soldiers watch from above as two contractors scramble to fix underground wires. Tom Harris (Gerard Butler) whispers into his sleeve as he covertly talks with a CIA command center back in America. Oliver (Tom Rhys Harries) keeps Revolutionary Guards at bay while they fume over what’s taking so long. Tom attaches a device that will monitor and install a virus targeting Iranian nuclear facilities before returning things to normal by showing a soccer game on his phone — better internet for all.

In Dubai, Roman (Travis Fimmel), another CIA operative, waits at the airport in Kabul. He coordinates with a nervous Mohamed (Navid Negahban) as he lands; it’s Mo’s first time back since fleeing when Taliban resurged again years ago. Mo isn’t a soldier or spy; he took this mission because it was his sister-in-law who disappeared when they outlawed female teachers and education.

Tom’s gambit works like gangbusters — so much so that he almost gets caught gawking at its success on various cameras inside Iran while exiting the building where he planted the virus on their system — but still puts Farzad (Bahador Foladi) squarely in charge of hunting them down once demand for blood hits Tehran streets lighting them up around him until everyone knows someone else’s name just wants them dead when Ministry of Intelligence intercepts phone call between British reporter (Nina Toussaint-White) and her mole in Pentagon outing agents’ identities to global media.

Roman tells Tom they have to go now or the Iranians will execute them, but during a meeting with Taliban warlords Pakistani ISI officer Kahil (Ali Fazal) gives stern order: CIA will extract their team in Afghanistan; He wants them found and captured alive.

Director Ric Roman Waugh (Felon, Angel Has Fallen) leaves no gray area unexplored. Farzad isn’t painted as a villainous bad guy because he’s just doing his job for Iran. Neither is motorcycle-riding Kahil — he represents Pakistan’s interests in the region against other powers such as India and America. Iran and Pakistan both play dirty games with nuclear proliferation while engaging Taliban on different levels.

Butler and Waugh also earn major cool points for a scene in which Farzad chases Tom through pitch black desert in helicopter; The latter sees everything through night-vision goggles that turn green what could be seen FLIR thermographic imaging being used by former to light up ground below before engaging each other furiously with guns blazing back-and-forth aerial onslaught keeping adrenaline pumping.

Hollywood rarely shows devout Muslims fighting against hijacking of their faith by extremists, but Kandahar does so between bullets and explosions.

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