This particular subject matter is an odd choice for director Guy Ritchie. This film comes across as an American movie, with much jingoism and purpose that would typically come from an American propaganda film. Still, the writers and director hope to tell a realistic story that appeals to its core audience’s hearts. That particular element works to a certain extent; however, some of the filmmakers’ choices come across as somewhat contrived and trite. The result is a compelling story that gets told slightly transparently but still manages to make a statement that there are good people who serve in the armed forces and want to do what is right.
During the war in Afghanistan, a U.S. unit is tasked with locating terrorists who wish to derail America’s involvement in their life and affairs. Army Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) leads one team tasked with investigating and finding such terrorists disrupting America’s intervention. When one mission goes awry, and Kinley ends up severely injured, his Afghani interpreter, Ahmed (Dar Salim), goes beyond his duties to protect his leader and risks his life to ensure Kinley gets home safely.
Even though this does happen, this puts a massive target on Ahmed and his family, who all go into hiding after Kinley’s extraction to the U.S. After Kinley gets home safely, all he can think about is the safety of his savior. He initially attempts to go through the ridiculous red tape that comes through the U.S. Army and the government but hits roadblocks at every turn. He finally decides to take matters into his own hands to rescue Ahmed and his family, but this is a rather tricky challenge.
Though the film touches many familiar territories, Ritchie’s The Covenant is still riveting. Though not based on actual events, the film still comes across mostly realistically; however, some moments test the audience’s intelligence. Written by Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, and Marn Davies, The Covenant, despite its flaws, is still a solid piece of war cinema.
Ritchie makes many of its war/action sequences very thrilling and powerful. He and his crew don’t exactly rewrite the book on war movies, but the story, and the development of the two main characters, help sell its message. Its message is that one fantastic turn deserves another, precisely why Kinley decides to risk his life again to do the same for his hero.
The movie features solid work by the entire cast, but the excellent acting by both Gyllenhaal and Salim makes this movie work as well as it does. Both actors unflappably endow their characters with passion and tenacity that they see each other like brothers-in-arms and are unwilling to leave each other behind. It is a simple and moderately predictable story of doing the right thing, but Ritchie’s talent for tension and suspense works well in selling the drama.
Now, I am not about to ultimately sell this movie as flawless. Though the director and his writers struggled to make the whole experience real, I still felt for the lead characters and finally wanted a good outcome. The Covenant has much heart in its storytelling and character development, and that element is undeniable.