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Movie Review: Guy Ritchie's The Covenant

Updated: Apr 20, 2023


“You save your soul by saving someone else’s body.” - Arthur Hertzberg

Guy Ritchie is a bit of a mixed bag. He can make some damn entertaining movies like The Gentlemen, Snatch, Sherlock Holmes and its sequel. Then he can make something like Aladdin and completely go off the rails in just about every way. I try to cut him some slack with Aladdin though as I assume Disney stuck its nose where it didn’t belong and made a mess of things. Regardless of his misses I would still consider myself a fan. We now have his latest The Covenant starring the impeccable Jake Gyllenhaal as a military badass with a soul.

Officially titled Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant (don’t ask me why), Gyllenhaal plays Sergeant John Kinley who is in charge of a military unit tasked with finding and destroying explosive ordinance held by the enemy somewhere in the Middle East. After losing their interpreter on a mission, Kinley is responsible for choosing a replacement. He picks Ahmed, a skilled translator who has a reputation of being difficult to work with. Despite his standing, Kinley sees something in Ahmed and brings him into the fold of their unit.

On a botched mission all hell breaks loose leaving Kinley and Ahmed alone and being pursued by the enemy. When it appears all hope is lost, Ahmed comes through in glorious fashion and saves Kinley’s life. After waking from severe head trauma, Kinley learns that Ahmed, a native of the Middle East, is still not only stuck there but highly sought after by the enemy complete with a major bounty on his head. Seeing Ahmed as a kind of kindred spirit and of course the person who saved his life, he feels a devotion to him. He cannot rest until he gets Ahmed and his family relocated to the United States with visas promised by the U.S. Military to any native interpreters who serve. He knows the clock is ticking and the enemy is closing in. Encountering resistance from his superiors he funds his own mission through mercenaries to save Ahmed’s life just as he once saved Kinley’s.

As war movies go this is nothing special. I believe through strong acting by Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim (Ahmed) this works better than it might have otherwise. Together they create a relationship that as an audience we want to see reconnected. The Kinley character is skilled and confident but he operates knowing full well that without Ahmed he would be dead. His moral responsibility to Ahmed is so overwhelming he is willing to risk his own safety and the comfort of his own family to find him and bring him to the U.S. The action feels familiar without any real standout moments. That said it does keep a pace that is fast and easily absorbs our attention.

Jake Gyllenhaal is the typical charismatic leading man we’ve come to expect him to be. From an emotional standpoint he is in my opinion one of the best working actors today. Adding to his skillset as a dramatic actor is an applause worthy work ethic devoting himself to the physicality of his characters and their particular physical demands. As a boxer in Southpaw he became absolutely shredded while becoming a viable, real life boxer. With Nightcrawler, arguably his best performance to date, he went in the other direction losing a substantial amount of weight to create the appearance of a scavenging animal who dwells in the shadows both literally and metaphorically. With The Covenant he learned the skills necessary to believably command his own military unit. From tactical commands to combat maneuvers he is every bit as believable as a soldier as he is a boxer, police officer (End of Watch) or sociopathic video crime journalist.

Dar Salim, a comparative newcomer, is able to keep up with Gyllenhaal every step of the way. He emits a trustworthy persona without ever being a stepping stone around the other soldiers. He demonstrates a capability that is admirable and at times a bit intimidating. Having lost so much, his character Ahmed is hyper focused on bringing the fight to his enemies however he can. Salim delivers this confidently and in true entertaining fashion. He makes you believe that Gyllenhaal’s character would want to risk everything to save him.

The Covenant is a run-of-the-mill war movie in many ways. It still works though. With much of the focus being on the relationship of these two men, once strangers now brothers of war is what makes this something worth the effort. Gyllenhaal and Salim are wonderful together, clashing at times and bonding in others just as brothers would do. It has adequate action sequences that while possessing nothing amazing still manage to create an exciting and at times perilous journey for these characters. As the saying goes, it didn’t exactly blow my hair back but overall I can’t hold too much against it. It delivers what is promised, just not always at a level we might hope for from all those involved both behind the camera and in front.

Rated R For: violence, language throughout and brief drug content

Runtime: 123 minutes

After Credits Scene: No

Genre: Action, Thriller

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dar Salim, Antony Starr, Emily Beecham

Directed By: Guy Ritchie

Out of 10

Story: 8/ Acting: 8/ Directing: 7.5/ Visuals: 7

OVERALL: 7.5/10

Buy to Own: Yes


Check out the trailer below:


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