The Covenant Review

The Covenant
The Covenant
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Guy Ritchie is best known for his energetic and witty heist thrillers that zoom on by — which does not describe The Covenant. As a look back at America’s occupation in Afghanistan after 9/11, Ritchie and his co-writers (Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies) try their hardest to fight against becoming pro-military propaganda, and their well-meaning intentions spotlight international allies. Movies like American Sniper or Lone Survivor are harrowing accounts that bleed red, white, and blue jingoism, but The Covenant is more about revealing the consequences of the U.S.’s Afghanistan operations now that we’ve pulled out our troops. The problem is those messages become tangled in a tired arc that still feels like a story told by Uncle Sam, and it runs way longer than the otherwise-overseas story can sustain.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Sergeant John Kinley, leader of an elite squad that tracks down and destroys Taliban weapons outposts – but The Covenant is not always a rousing action spectacle about gunfire and explosions. Dar Salim plays Sgt. Kinley’s interpreter Ahmed, a position that employs multilingual locals with the promise of travel visas out of Afghanistan afterward. Gyllenhaal and Salim strike a quick chemistry as their characters sniff out Taliban hideouts, shrugging off outdated tendencies to only show people who look like Ahmed as villains in these stories. Gyllenhaal’s journey still features monologues that lean into American superiority, but it’s through both co-stars’ devotion to each other as brothers in arms that dramatic survival instincts shine through.

The villain of The Covenant is its runtime, clocking in just over two hours with a whole lot of fat left on the steak that feels like it should’ve been trimmed. Ritchie jams two objectives into the span of one movie, and by the time we’ve journeyed alongside Ahmed’s valiant heroism dragging an injured Kinley over blistering Afghan deserts, and Kinley’s PTSD mixes with survivor’s guilt back on his California home turf, there’s still too much movie left because there’s another whole rescue mission to go on.

Ahmed’s efforts are long and arduous, but Ritchie struggles to help us not feel that weight as his film trudges forward. There’s an imbalance between both tactical escape situations, despite their equal importance. Given how the first two-thirds are so exhausting, Kinley’s return mission has to work that much harder to keep our attention.

What Ritchie and company get right about their story is showcasing Ahmed and other Afghanis who denounce the Taliban in their own country. The Covenant tries its best to be a story about those interpreters who were promised protection by American forces, only to be abandoned after our troops left in 2021 and Taliban ranks took back national control. Unfortunately, that focus gets blurry between Kinley’s ability to make Ahmed’s safety about himself – waking up in the middle of the night to rant to his wife about his burden – or an ending that becomes vaguely pro-war by accident. I genuinely believe Ritchie’s cause for The Covenant is noble as it allows Ahmed to be a savior, but not even Gyllenhaal acting can save from ineffectual brooding through this bloated midsection which does nothing but belabour Sergeant-placed guilt.

Ritchie overburdens the Covenant by trying to make the film do everything at once, only to project familiar Ritchie characterization of Kinley’s platoon members and then proceed with the downsizing of two main characters. Although it is about Kinley and Ahmed’s friendship, much time is spent introducing elements that do not have any payoffs in latter scenes. Indeed, The Covenant is at its best when Kinley and Ahmed are left alone to face impossible odds or escape from Taliban hunters who rush them shooting. It succeeds in these moments more than anything else in this movie. What is more, their relationship rises above the nationality difference between Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim as they comment on particular war stories without generalizing nations so as to expose all of them to disapproval. Thus by the end, these two individuals save The Covenant from sinking even though Ritchie finally reverts to the worst practices he borrowed from other recent American war movies that concentrate on glory.


An appropriately engrossing story touches down on American soldiers fighting Taliban side-by-side with Afghan interpreters like Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim in The Covenant only during those periods when these two actors risk their lives for each other in a battlefield. In a bloated wartime thriller already Guy Ritchie veers off into background significance that has less impact than it looks which creates a problem eventually. Towards the end there are too many movies about xenophobia and military-industrial complexes doing more harm than good competing with one another; by how it turns simplified though, a fresher think on early 2000s war-on-terror America film panic can be attained. Spirited performances along with an underlined sense of survivalism keep The Covenant going despite the fact that its running time could have been shorter before becoming its own worst enemy with too many minutes spent on screen.!

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