For Kinley, he is merely an occupying soldier, following orders and gaining accolades for violence. His boss (Jonny Lee Miller) praises his abilities. His only personal dangers seem to be career oriented. When Kinley calls his wife (Emily Beecham), she is endlessly supportive, despite his prolonged absence and nearness to death. Ahmed, meanwhile, is in constant danger. The locals hate him for collaborating with the U.S. military, and he only takes the money to support his wife and infant child. Ahmed’s story is clearly the more interesting one. Why did we have to focus on Kinley at all?
It seems galling for Hollywood to make a true story about a struggling Afghani interpreter, and somehow foreground the American soldier in his place. See also: John Woo’s “Windtalkers,” a film about a WWII code-translating Navajo soldier … being protected by a brave white dude (in that case, Nicolas Cage).
Salim, however, gives Ahmed a great deal of humanity, refusing the play the character as anything other than capable and resolute. Salim, a Danish actor, outshines his co-star by a considerable margin, communicating intelligence and humanity through the manly grit that Guy Ritchie shoulders him with. The sequences where the Gyllenhaal character is taken out of commission, and Salim has to use his wits to survive may make audiences wonder why the film was told from Gyllenhaal’s perspective.
The final chyron pointed out that, after the U.S. hastily withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban immediately regained power over the government. The quagmire was futile. “The Covenant” is not an Oliver Stone-like damnation of the war experience. For Ritchie, war is quite grand, and a great way for dudes to get to know each other. On that shallow level, I suppose it functions. Beyond that, it may disappoint.
/Film Rating: 5 out of 10