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The Covenant (2023)

Guy Ritchie's The Covenant review

Those of you who have followed me for a while will know that there are a few genres I don’t tend to lean towards (war movies being one of them). However, the other day my mate sent me a video clip from a movie he’d recently watched and he was full of positive things to say about it. I got so into the clip (that ended just when things were getting interesting) that I had to watch the film just to see how it all played out.


The Covenant (2023)


(You might find it under “Guy Ritchie’s” The Covenant since there’s another film with the same title that came out in 2006 - just to confuse matters).


I was actually surprised to see that this was a Guy Ritchie film. When I think of him I tend to think of British gangster films. This is certainly not one of those.


If you haven’t seen it, it’s written and directed by Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Gentlemen) and stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners), Dar Salim (Game of Thrones), Johnny Lee Miller (Trainspotting) and Antony Starr (Homelander from The Boys) among many others.


This is what it’s about according to the internet:


“During the war in Afghanistan, a local interpreter risks his own life to carry an injured sergeant across miles of grueling terrain.”


As usual that short and sweet synopsis doesn’t give too much away in terms of story, but believe me when I tell you it’s well worth a watch!



As I was watching the movie it felt like it had “true story” written all over it, surprisingly though it’s not one. It is however inspired by the “collective experiences of hundreds of interpreters and soldiers during the war in Afghanistan.”


Like a few films I’ve seen recently this one doesn’t waste any time getting into things which is always refreshing. It gets your attention right from the beginning with a brief text explanation on screen of how in October of 2001 in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks, 1,300 U.S. troops were deployed to Afghanistan. This had risen to 98,000 troops by December 2011.


To aid them in their mission 50,000 Afghan interpreters were employed by the U.S. military under the agreement that they’d be eligible to apply for special immigration visas and relocate to America.


[Sadly the U.S. government didn't keep their promise, and since the U.S. Armed Forces pulled out of Afghanistan in 2021 more than 300 interpreters and their families have been murdered by the Taliban for collaborating with the U.S. Military with thousands more still in hiding.]

This scene-setting information is given over a sweeping aerial shot of a mountainous region while “A Horse With No Name” by America hauntingly plays in the background.



Once characters are introduced and things start to kick off the film does a really good job of conveying the feeling of an ever present danger (Taliban). This sets a tense and uneasy tone for much of the movie.

I’ve obviously never served in the military or even been to the Middle East but I get the feeling this film paints a pretty authentic picture of what it was like to be over there during that time. The combat scenes in particular feel very real too, especially compared to your typical OTT “Hollywood action". I can only imagine this is thanks to Guy Ritchie's gritty filmmaking style.


Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent as the main character, Sergeant John Kinley, but Dar Salim steals the show as his wilful interpreter, Ahmed Abdullah. Their relationship is complicated (taking in to account the situation and their totally different backgrounds), but it’s that relationship that ultimately forms the backbone of the story.


Something I really liked about the movie is how it’s a story of two halves. It almost feels like it should end after the first hour but that's really just the end of the first chapter. You then have another hour to look forward to, this time telling a very different story to the first. It’s also nice to see a film like this that doesn’t paint all of the Afghan people as the enemy. It even goes as far as to make Ahmed the hero of the story which again I thought was refreshing.



With an interesting and dramatic string-themed score, impressive cinematography (thanks largely to the filming locations - Alicante, Spain being one), great performances and a compelling story, this is a film I’d urge you to watch even if, like me you’re not too fond of war-related movies.


It has plenty of thrilling action sequences and some really tense moments, but unlike some movies of it’s kind it wants to tell a specific story, and that story is always the main focus. I loved it!


You can find it streaming on Amazon Prime Video and as an added bonus it’s included in your subscription (so no rental fee!)


Have you seen The Covenant? If so let me know what you thought of it in the comments.


As a side note, a friend of mine who's spent many years of his life travelling the world once had tea with the Taliban while he was in Pakistan. I had him on my old podcast a few years ago and he told the whole story. It's fascinating!

P.S. Please don't judge me on the way I pour a pint...




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