The Covenant Stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim and is Directed by Guy Ritchie
Review: The Covenant serves as an effective and satisfying war thriller, leaning heavily on convincing performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim.
The Covenant is Guy Ritchie’s newest movie, and it tells the story of an interpreter risking his own life to carry an injured sergeant across miles of grueling terrain. The movie stars Dar Salim as the interpreter and Jake Gyllenhaal as the injured soldier.
The Covenant effectively sandwiches two rescue missions back-to-back in a tightly controlled narrative. It’s a two hander, sneakily becoming an anthology of several strong stories and ideas working within one another. Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim headline the movie, and each get half of the film to take the lead.
The first half belongs to the latter as Dar Salim plays an interpreter caught between working with the American troops in Afghanistan and keeping his family safe from the repercussions that come with said work. Events inevitably go South, and he’s left to carry Gyllenhaal’s ailing body across miles and miles of grueling terrain.
This is arguably the better half of The Covenant as it allows Guy Ritchie to flex more of his directing chops with smooth action and scorching location shooting. This section of the film is less concerned with story than the second half, and it relies on the acting of two very capable actors in Salim and Gyllenhaal.
The first half also gets less bogged down in the politics and social implications in the story at hand. Salim manages to convey so many emotions without having much dialogue, offering a story told through his physical performance and shifting facial expressions.
It works much like a sports movie, using montage filmmaking and a blaring score by Chris Benstead to communicate the difficult journey Salim’s character is taking to bring Gyllenhaal to safety, as well as the mental and physical tole it’s taking on him. When it has tense plot points, The Covenant gets tense, but it never feels unearned or cheaply built for the sake of suspense.
Reviews for Films like The Covenant (2023)
I went into The Covenant knowing relatively nothing beyond who stars in it and a vague idea of the characters involved. If you go in like I did, you’ll notice how it’s paced. For a two hour movie, The Covenant zips by. You can chop it up into a few different moments, each feeling well executed and sharply conceived.
The only section where it drags just a bit is after a time jump that launches the audience into the second act. Jake Gyllenhaal takes the reigns at this point, but he’s stuck yelling through cell phones and angrily holding office meetings with his supervisors. He has the charisma to hold an audience’s attention, but it lingers a bit too long before heading back into the war zone.
Gyllenhaal has made a career of playing these obsessive, crazed characters that are unfazed until they reach their end goal. I thought it worked last year when he starred in Ambulance, and I think it works in The Covenant too. It’s a relatively simple and concise rescue story, but it’s executed with such high precision from everyone involved.
Guy Ritchie also elevates to a higher level here as he displays his ability to shoot extensive choreography out in the open. Part of this movie’s charm is that it feels so real – unlike many action movies now shot on a soundstage or with a heavy dosage of greenscreen. When it’s traveling through Afghanistan, it’s one of the best war movies in recent years.
So while it struggles to rebuild momentum following the climax of the first act, there’s still plenty to like and recommend in The Covenant. If you like Jake Gyllenhaal, it’s worth seeing just for that. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Dar Salim after this as I thought he carried the more impressive half of the film.
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The Covenant Movie Cast and Credits
Jake Gyllenhaal as Sgt. John Kinley
Dar Salim as Ahmed
Antony Starr as Eddie Parker
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cinematography: Ed Wild
Editor: James Herbert
Composer: Chris Benstead
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