Home Movie Reviews ‘Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant’ – Review
‘Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant’ – Review

‘Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant’ – Review


When it comes to filmmakers who know how to crank up the excitement and adrenaline of the cinematic experience, British filmmaker Guy Ritchie is in a class all his own. Picture after picture, he continues to push his style into bold and interesting directions, and The Covenant is his most dramatic and intense picture to date.

After his unit is ambushed in Afghanistan, American Special Forces soldier Sgt. John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds himself indebted to local interpreter Ahmed (Dar Salim). When it becomes clear to Kinley that Ahmed and his family will be left behind and at the mercy of the Taliban, Kinley mounts a dramatic rescue message to get his friend out alive.

As the king of machismo filmmaking, Guy Ritchie has inherited the seat of stalwarts such as the great John Sturgess and Sam Peckinpah, and he’s a director who works at pace. His films are filled with tough guy characters, back-and-forth banter, crazy action elements and flawless sartorial style. And The Covenant is a picture where Ritchie seeks to challenge all of that. Trading his usual cockney gangsters for the war-torn battlefield of Afghanistan and the War on Terror, Ritchie tells a deeply brave and emotional story of loyalty under heavy fire. The Covenant is a picture that seeks to honour the warrior ethos. It’s a story of absolute true grit as two men from entirely different worlds have to set aside their differences in order to survive the pure horrors of modern warfare.

Front and centre in The Covenant is Jake Gyllenhaal as Sgt. John Kinley, an American Special Forces soldier who is tasked with destroying Taliban munitions. Brash, stern and slightly jaded, Kinley is a man who doesn’t suffer fools and who thinks he has all the answers. But when fate takes a different turn, Kinley soon finds himself indebted to a man he hardly knows, and his military honour won’t let him forget it. Gyllenhaal has a long history of portraying military men, and you see all of these experiences go into this role. He also benefits from Ritchie’s ‘man of few words’ style, and Kinley’s mission is a tough one that pushes Gyllenhaal as a performer. It’s clear that Gyllenhaal is aware of the gravitas of this picture, and he brings his A-game to the narrative.

Playing opposite Gyllenhaal’s Kinley is Dar Salim as Ahmed, a local Afghan interpreter whose reasons for taking on such a dangerous task are not so clear. From the start, there’s a broad contrast between Kinley and Ahmed and Ritchie focuses on this heavily. But when all hell breaks lose, and Kinley’s life is suddenly thrust into Ahmed’s care, this man proves himself to be a brother to his comrade, and the two of them set off on a journey that will change their lives forever. Salim brings quiet confidence and strength to the role of Ahmed, and his loyalty to his family and country is absolute. His performance is incredibly respectful of the Afghan interpreters who fearlessly faced the terrorist insurgency, and there’s nothing he won’t sacrifice to protect his family.

While Gyllenhaal and Salim are the principal players, The Covenant also has a great supporting cast lined up. Alexander Skarsgard puts in a good turn as Kinley’s superior, Sgt. Declan O’Brady who misses the field and acts as a conscience to Kinley. Antony Starr has considerable swagger as private military contractor Eddie Parker, who becomes Kinley’s ‘boots on the ground’ support and brings a solid authority to the picture. And finally, Emily Beecham brings considerable empathy to the role of Kinley’s wife, Caroline, who reminds her husband of the oath that he owes to Ahmed and pushes her husband to do the right and difficult thing when all seems lost.

Ritchie finds the right balance of drama and action with The Covenant, and both are delivered on-screen with explosive force. Known as a bit of gearhead and with an eye for detail, Ritchie gets the combat of the picture right, and there are plenty of CQB gunfights to keep audiences engaged. Paired with the filmmaker’s innovative camera work and the desire to keep things ‘creative’, leads to plenty of intense moments. The film’s third act is filled with BOOM in a do-or-die gunfight between Kinley and Ahmed and an army of terrorist insurgents. Matched to the action is a deeply dramatic story that focuses on themes of honour, loyalty and a debt that needs to be repaid, and The Covenant is an emotionally stirring picture.

The Covenant is an altogether different kind of film experience from Guy Ritchie, and audiences will fully embrace it. It’s a movie whose story is ripped from real-world headlines, and it honours the soldiers and interpreters who sacrificed so much when going down range.

Image: Prime Video