Two recent films attempt to give audiences a “realistic” glimpse into the lives and work of American soldiers in Afghanistan and their relationships with their Islamic-bred translators. Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant is one of them, and Ric Roman Waugh’s Kandahar is the other. While both films have riveting and harrowing moments, neither ultimately comes across as genuine. At least with Ritchie’s film, the director attempts to tell a heartfelt tale, but Kandahar doesn’t quite make it there. I suppose it doesn’t help that, at the screening of Kandahar, director Ric Roman Waugh stated that he wanted a movie where he had an excuse to “blow sh*t up.”
Gerard Butler stars as Tom Harris, a CIA operative charged with black ops missions in Afghanistan to give the U.S. an advantage in their war against terror. While good at his job, Harris faces a significant disadvantage when an intelligence leak exposes his presence and makes his departure difficult. Harris and his interpreter must struggle to escape all enemies targeting them as enemies of the country and get to safety.
While Kandahar does have its compelling moments and some impressive sequences of explosive action, it only partially adds the human element that The Covenant succeeds in delivering. There is also one particular sequence in the pitch darkness of night that is hard to visualize despite the filmmakers’ use of “night vision” to sell this scene. Ric Roman Waugh and his writers attempt to offer some insight into the various politics of the area and America’s involvement there, but more is needed.
As far as the performances go, the entire cast does their part well but is held back by the limitations of the writing. Kandahar is ultimately a mediocre movie with some laudable action sequences (save one) but lacks the heart necessary to sell its premise to me genuinely. I moderately recommend the film as it has exciting moments, but I do so with some reservations.