It’s a shame The Covenant sorta came & went without much notice, because so far, it’s one of the best action movies of the year. It’s also the best movie Guy Ritchie has directed in a long, long time.
Taking place in Afghanistan in the early 2000s, Sgt. John Kinley (Jake Gynnenhaal) commands missions to find and destroy hideouts where the Taliban stash weapons and explosives. The Army regularly hires Afghans to serve as interpreters to make it easier to communicate with the locals. When his previous interpreter is killed, Kinley recruits Ahmed (Dar Salim), who’s hoping to earn visas for himself and his family.
Ahmed has knowledge of the Taliban that extends beyond what he was hired for, which saves Kinley’s team from being ambushed. However, during the next raid - over 100 kilometers from their base - everyone but Kinley and Ahmed are killed. Now hunted by countless Taliban, they must make their way back to safety on their own, mostly through the mountains to avoid the main roads. When Kinley is shot, Ahmed heroically manages to get him back singlehandedly, an arduous trek that’s both gripping and suspenseful.
|"Yeah, Jake...you look great. Can we finish the scene now?"|
This mission is fraught with even more tension than the first half of the film, partially because we’re never certain it’s going to be successful, but also because we’ve learned enough about both of these guys to be completely invested in them. As antagonists, the Taliban are mostly faceless cannon fodder, but Kinley and Ahmed are wonderfully dynamic characters, their motives and actions relatable. And despite never outwardly demonstrating anything but a working relationship toward each other, we sense an unbreakable bond developing.
In addition to well-conceived main characters and an engaging story, The Covenant features outstanding (and believable) action sequences. They are some of the best Ritchie has ever shot, especially the climactic truck chase and subsequent firefight on top of an Afghan dam. But even during the quieter moments in-between, not a single minute of screen time is wasted on trivialities. Ultimately, it’s a terrific, exciting thriller that deserves to find a bigger audience.
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