Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant Recommendation

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant Recommendation
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Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant Recommendation. First things first. The Covenant is a feel good war movie that has a simple, single message to share with the world. But before we get to that, we’ll talk through the movie and see if we can’t make sense of that simple message that Guy Ritchie is sharing with us.

Quick Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant Overview

Spoilers abound from here on out – but the story is super simple – you can see it clear as day in the trailer above. Translator saves sargent’s life. Sargent makes it back to America. Translator is stuck in Afghanistan. Sargent goes in and gets the translator out. But there’s more to it than that. Apparently.

During the War in Afghanistan in March 2018, U.S. Army special operations sergeant John Kinley recruits an Afghan interpreter named Ahmed for a mission. Ahmed, who is desperately in need of money, and blames the Taliban for killing his son, decides he up for helping out. Ahmed, who is able to read the streets, and knows really what is going on, helps Kinley seek out a couple of explosive manufacturing shops in the region.

Assigned to check out a report of Taliban activity, Kinley’s platoon is caught off guard by a massing of troops in the area, resulting in an ambush that leaves Kinley and Ahmed as the only survivors. Running full speed for their lives, Kinley is ultimately captured and shot multiple times. Ahmed rescues Kinley by killing his captors and dragging him for 100 kilometers through treacherous desert mountain passes amidst enemy territory back to base camp. Here’s the skinny – despite surviving the ordeal, Ahmed is not granted the promised visa for himself and his family and becomes a target of the Taliban.

After living in torturous guilt for leaving him behind, Kinley can’t deal with himself anymore. He HAS to do something to get Ahmed out. And after spending months on hold trying to get the right paperwork for his visas, and failing, Kinley decides the only way to get Ahmed out is to do it himself. So, Kinley returns to Afghanistan as a civilian to rescue Ahmed and his family, enlisting the help of local military operatives. After escaping to a dam, and expending all their ammunition, it isn’t looking good. And as the Talibs are closing in, a C-130 gunship obliterates every single Tango in the neighboring tri-state area. And with that, Kinley is able to get Ahmed, his wife, and child, on a plane out to America… and therefore fulfilling his covenant with the man that saved his life.

Thoughts on Guy Ritchie’s Movie The Covenant

The movie hinges on a single soliloquy from Gyllenhaal. Kinley is being called in by a colonel and he’s in trouble for pushing on people too hard to get Ahmed a visa. But Kinley flips the script on the colonel and calls in the man’s debts instead. I’m going to quote from this moment extensively because it is such a huge moment:

Guy Ritchie's The Covenant Recommendation - a horrible saccharine sweet movie with an amazingly important message for Americans.

“There is a hook in me……
one that you cannot see. But it’s there. You think I have a choice? There is no fucking choice. I am going to get that man, and his family, out of the position, that we have put him in. And of that I have no doubt. And you are going to help me colonel. The reason that I am here?? I saved your life eight years ago. So you are going to get those Visas. I don’t know how, but you are going to get them. Because I know that you are the type of man, that pays his debts. Pay your debts.”

It’d be an Oscar worthy performance if this wasn’t an action movie. Maybe I’m wrong. It’s a really poignant, and brilliant performance from Jake here.

As the movie ends, it shows the photo of a real sargent, and a real translator. It’s a slide show reminding us of the fearless Afghan people that supported us in that country. And immediately, I was thinking – OH! I have to read that book! I need to read that Rolling Stone article! I want to know more about this real life story… But actually? It’s not a real story from the history books. It’s an amalgamation of stories that translators and military personnel went through together during their time in Afghanistan.

Here’s the problem with that little detail. Guy Ritchie’s story? It’s better crafted as a video game. But Guy Ritchie is telling a normal story in extremes to illustrate a point. Also at the end of the movie, Ritchie posted this message to the theater going audience: “30 August 2021 – The U.S. Armed Forces completed their departure from Afghanistan marking the end of a 20-year long campaign. One month later, the Taliban seized back complete control. More than 300 interpreters and their families have been murdered by the Taliban for collaborating with the U.S. Military. Thousands more are still in hiding.” That, is the simple point of this entire movie.

Wait. WHAT?!? That’s the point? Yes, stop hyperventilating and breathe into a bag for a second. Dressed in a happy fairytale, Ritchie has laced his medicine with so much sugar, American audiences might just find it palatable enough to swallow the pill. And what is that medicine he is shoving down our throat? It all links back to the Jake speech about paying our debts. Well, he’s saying that despite the American mythos, that we always pay our debts, and that we always keep our promises (and if you believe that I have a bridge to sell you, and a thing called a history book to allow you to peruse for a moment…), despite all that… we actually do not. Hardly ever do we come through on our promises. In fact, we are so fickle, and so flipping unreliable, it’s surprising that anyone trusts us ever… like at all.

The Message of Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

THIS! This, is the message that Mr. Ritchie is telling us. We like to think we are Kinley… we are the hero… flying in with our AC-130 gunship, and our military might, to do the right thing for once. But we are not. Worse, to this day, we have allowed the Taliban to jeopardize the lives of so many people that were good to us… put their lives on the line for us. Yet again, we have abandoned our friends and allies that have stuck their necks out for us.

Did you catch that as the message? No. No you didn’t. Because you were too caught up in the fact that Kinley saved the day. We are too caught up in the fact that America’s money, and America’s might, finally got Ahmed his visas, and too caught up in the fact that our AC-130 dropped no end of chaos on our enemies. Right? I get it, winning is distracting. Understandable. But please know, this was the only way that Guy Ritchie could hand us a truth we needed to hear: “We failed these translators, and we should all have hooks in us… we should all be caught, pinned and wriggling on a wall, until we have managed to extract these families from Afghanistan.” Full stop.

We made a pact, a covenant, a sacred blood oath with this individuals, and we did not pick up our end of the bargain. This is a fact. We have failed. Sure, this mythical Kinley guy – that isn’t real – did the right thing. But we have not. And we need to right this wrong no matter what it takes. And it’s that simple message that makes this a great movie. Not the cinematography. Not the acting (though Jake was fantastic as always). Not the editing or directing… because the movie was pretty meh, as far as action movies go. But the message. And on that point, it was a 5/5.

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