aka Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant
Aka Cloned Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant. I wasn’t going to write about this; it is, essentially, just another War on Terror action movie no one wants to see (the only one anyone ever wanted to see was the one featuring stalwart all-American hermaphrodite Bradley Cooper). It’s probably worth keeping a track of Ritchie’s clone, however, since it’s much more prolific than Ritchie ever was: five movies since the plandemic, two of them released this year (although, as STX productions, the releases have been somewhat forlorn), another completed for release next year and yet another set to begin in the summer. The Covenant has received more positive reviews than most of Ritchie’s output when he was living, but it’s expectedly shallow and macho, chock full of faceless Taliban just itching to be riddled with bullets. Never fear, however, the prime focus is on a brave Afghan interpreter whose presence marks the endeavour out as really quite liberal and progressive, or something.
One probably needs to consider, if a production has lined up a clone director to call the shots (or programmed him to call the shots), that those really calling the shots are likely to include some other easily serviceable clones in the cast (that is, assuming the whole production hasn’t been bashed out in a computer). Clone Ritchie used clone Hugh Grant in Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. Cary Elwes appears in the forthcoming The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare and was in Ruse de Guerre. Henry Cavill is in Ministry and Ritchie’s next, along with The Covenant’s Jake Gyllenhaal. Circumstantial in the cases of those three, admittedly (Cavill’s also conspicuously also NOT coming back as Superman or the Witcher). Just as (dead) Ewan McGregor’s chum Johnny Lee Miller showing up here in a supporting role is. It probably pays to err on the side of assuming the worst, however.
While it looks for all the world like a (clone-)for-hire job, The Covenant’s screenplay is credited to Ritchie producer Ivan Atkinson (since Aladdin) and Ritchie Marn Davies (since The Gentlemen), with Ritchie clone input. The montage of actual US military and interpreters during the end credits might lead one to the impression they’ve based this on a true story. Not so – if it were, it would have to be VERY loosely – even if they cite the relationships established between many interpreters and the US military as inspiration; promised visas for their service, many were left behind (the end titles report more than 300 have been murdered for their collaboration with the enemy since the 2021 withdrawal, with many more in hiding).
So Gyllenhaal’s Special Operations Sergeant Kinley takes on Dar Salim’s Ahmed as his platoon’s interpreter, aware he’s headstrong and opinionated. Despite several teething altercations, Ahmed is consistently proven to be right, particularly useful when, as this platoon are, hunting out IEDs (or their manufacturing bases) is the objective. Not only is he right, he’s a brave and noble and true Afghan fella, just the sort you’d be proud to give a visa and let in your country (perhaps the message is that only bad immigrants are generally allowed in, no questions asked?) When things go awry and Kinley and Ahmed are the only platoon members left alive, and Kinley is then wounded, brave and noble and true Afghan fella Ahmed carries, drives and carts his sergeant across treacherous Taliban-infested countryside to safety, then to vanish for his own and his family’s protection (there’s a price on his head).
The first part of The Covenant is replete with the requisite clichéd characterisation, but it’s an effective and serviceable actioner. The second half strays too far into tiresome grandstanding, however, as Kinley, wracked with guilt over Ahmed being left in the lurch, returns to Afghanistan to get him out alive. Which leads to a huge firefight on a bridge in which most of the Taliban get blown up (don’t worry, there are always more). I mean, aside from Jake never being terribly convincing (if intense stares won Oscars, he’d have them all), you could probably swap in John Rambo fairly seamlessly (it would have made a neat adjunct to Rambo III). Sure, an even higher body count would be necessary, but there’s a not dissimilar free pass for killing bad guys (foreign bad guys) with impunity.
Dar Salim is strong, though. Much better than the surrounding material. Emily Beecham has a couple of scenes as Jake’s wife. Antony Starr (of Banshee and The Boys) delivers a glorified cameo as a local military operator who brings in the big guns for the climax. Christopher Benstead furnishes a slightly tiresomely faux-ethnic score (there’s always something slightly patronising about such efforts). Many of the reviews praised Ritchie’s restraint, but there’s a degree of that in his last three pictures, which rather suggests a clone doesn’t operate at quite the capacity of the original. Which wouldn’t be altogether surprising.
Obviously, then, no interrogation of the War on Terror was expected here and none is found. The introductory titles reference 9/11 without qualification, and we all know the general text of war everlasting, ploys for increased mass surveillance and permanent states of fear, not to mention securing black-ops budgets (the heroin trade). Then there are the other reasons, such as Iraq, Iran and Syria incursions, per Captain Mark Richards, being at least in part about securing stargates and portals. Others will have it that the war business is necessary for financing the SSP (irrespective of space being a fake). However you colour it, Ritchie’s movie arrives instantly redundant, and one wonders if it wasn’t just knocked out as an AI-conceived holding pattern, safe in the knowledge it would lose money, since profit and audience weren’t really the point.