Director: Guy Ritchie
You never quite know what you’re gonna get from these patriotic, warzone, gun-heavy, heart-wrenching, furiously-fast flicks; will the tone be off, will the message be cheesy, will the politics be awkward, will it all fall apart? We’ve seen some weird additions to this genre, but I am pleased to report that The Covenant is about as much a bullseye as you could hope for and the director could muster. And it’s Guy Ritchie, what’s more, a talent that’s been talentless for quite some time. Doesn’t really matter; in the end the result is what matters, and the result here is excellent.
America has entered into an occupation of Afghanistan, following the September 11th attacks; years later it is still there, with few objectives met and a rising cost of men and materials. US Troops pair with Afghan interpreters to scour the country for munitions, bombs, and intel, often putting themselves in extreme danger, and often losing their lives. On one such mission, Sergeant John Kinley leads a team in the search for explosives, only to fall into a firefight that quickly turns deadly, leaving his life in the hands of his interpreter Ahmed, a man whose own story is full of terrible tragedy and quiet hope.
Ritchie is back, and it’s about time, with a string of misses since Snatch that defy his obvious talent. But he hones in here, tells a simple story, lets two leads take control, traps audiences within action from which we can’t escape, and then lets the ingredients turn into something great. Covenant is action-packed, raw, sad, bloody, but with heart and honesty to see it through all the way to the dramatic finish. Gyllenhaal and Salim are excellent, desperate, but not over-the-top, and the way they handle the complicated drama is top-notch. There are a few iffy moments in the middle when the action lags, the fights for survival at beginning at end are by far the best parts, but overall the film works surprisingly well and will be memorable for months.
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆