There are certain predictions you can make these days when it comes to cinema. With Jake Gyllenhaal starring in a film the chances are it will be of quality. When Guy Ritchie is directing a film, you can be certain there will be a level of style and the addition of his directorial trademarks that will enhance the atmosphere of a story. The Covenant stars Jake Gyllenhaal and is directed by Guy Ritchie. And it does deliver on both prior assumptions, yet it does so in an unconventional way, at least for Ritchie behind the camera.
The Covenant is a movie that thrives on its emotional undercurrent and the connection you have for these characters. This results in a moving film that will last with you much longer than its two-hour runtime. This film centers on US Army Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) and an Afghan interpreter Ahmed (Dar Salim). When Kinley’s team is ambushed Ahmed will do the unthinkable and risk his life to cross through enemy territory with a badly injured Kinley to get him to safety. When Kinley awakes weeks later back in the US, he learns Ahmed wasn’t given his visa or granted safe passage to the US and is in hiding with his family. So, Kinley will do what it takes to give Ahmed the freedom he deserves.
What struck me most about this film was the overall direction from Ritchie and more so how he was able to adapt his techniques to fit the theme of the plot. There are glimpses of Ritchie’s trademarks, but he effectively breathes his talents into directing this film with an emphasis on the emotional intensity. So, he lingers on the characters, he brings the camera closer in when framing the shots to create an almost intimate sincerity between these two men. Men that essentially become friends from necessity and because of the common moral traits they possess that says no man left behind. Ritchie is known for his flashier fare but with movies like Wrath of Man and here with The Covenant he shows he can adapt when needed to bring the best story out the material.
Another huge bonus for this movie was the performance from Jake Gyllenhaal who delivers a multi-layered character once again. Like I said, when Gyllenhaal is the star, you can expect a certain level of quality and he continues that here. But what sets this movie apart is a power house performance from Dar Salim to create a charged one two punch. The Covenant is fueled by two exceptional performances and the heart Gyllenhaal and Salim pour into these roles is what makes their character growth and their friendship so impactful for the needs of the plot. This is a movie that gets going quickly and with its emotional threads it can have you completely invested in no time.
The Covenant is part war film. It’s part survival film. It’s a story of friendship and loyalty as well, and the genuine dramatic seeds at the core of it all is the glue that binds these elements together into a swift, emotionally engaging journey of respect and honor. Respect between two men, from different worlds that are unified by their moral code. So, there is plenty of substance to invest in with this movie. The production design and locations are perfect to pull you into the story with these guys. When the battle sequences kick in, so does the intensity. And when Gyllenhaal embarks on his solo mission its equally tension filled. The writing is sincere which humanizes these characters nicely. You learn more about them and what drives and motivates them to keep you locked in the story progression. Gyllenhaal, Salim, and Ritchie are a perfect trio for The Covenant and the result is captivating and thought provoking.
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dar Salim, Alexander Ludwig, Antony Starr, Bobby Schofield, Emily Beecham, Jonny Lee Miller, Jason Wong Director: Guy Ritchie Writers: Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies, Guy Ritchie Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Running Time: 123 minutes Rating: R (Violence, Language, Brief Drug Content) Year: 2023
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