Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant Review | A Movie That Effectively Captures the Nuances of Human Bonding

The one thing that strikes you very soon into Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant is the fact that it doesn’t really feel like a Guy Ritchie film. From the stylish title sequences to signature stylized camera movements, there is a significant departure in the film’s visual treatment. It is almost like watching Zero Dark Thirty or American Sniper. Trying to shed light on the lives of those interpreters in Afghanistan, who later got targeted by the Taliban, The Covenant, directed by Guy Ritchie, is an impactful drama that effectively portrays depth in human relationships.

Sgt. John Kinley and his team in Afghan got ambushed by the Taliban during one of their routine operations, and they lost one of their officers and interpreter in that attack. Kinley recruits Ahmed as his new interpreter despite knowing that his reputation isn’t that great. The equation kind of smoothens out as Ahmed’s local knowledge saves the team from one possible ambush. But the story took a drastic turn when the whole team got attacked during another mission, and only John and Ahmed survived. The struggle of these two to escape from the Taliban-dominated areas and what happens after the struggle is what we witness in this war drama.

Almost 45 minutes into the movie, there is a moment when John and Ahmed, who are resting at an abandoned house, are talking about the enemy’s strategy, and the camera has this dolly zoom kind of effect. I am emphasizing that moment because that’s the only bit that might give you a hint that it’s a Guy Ritchie film. There is a surprising level of restraint in how the subject is treated. You don’t get these overtly patriotic or heroic bits. Ritchie and his co-writers Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies ensure that it is about the connection between these two. If the movie’s first half belongs to Ahmed, the latter is built around John’s guilt of being helpless.

Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a really solid performance as Sgt. John Kinley. In the initial bits, he is that usual tough guy. But the story sees Kinley going through really rough patches, and Gyllenhaal gets the beat of the character. The scene where he talks about the debt to his senior is one bit where he entirely becomes the character. One person who will be easily everyone’s favorite in this film is Dar Salim as Ahmed Abdullah. Ahmed is a scarred soul who had lost his son already, so you don’t see him emote a lot. The way Dar Salim keeps it subtle, even in a scene where Ahmed screams out of frustration, makes us empathize with that person, and it is that empathy that makes us root for John when he plans to return to Afghan. Little Joe fame Emily Beecham and “Homelander” Antony Starr are the other prominent names in the star cast.

The way Guy Ritchie has used silence in this film to create an eerie tension when the guys are getting hunted is excellent to watch. I saw this film on Television, and the silences were so optimal that you sort of feel the same fear that’s there in the minds of the protagonists. Ritchie and cinematographer Ed Wild capture the terrain effectively to create moments of nervousness. Because of that challenging geography, we realize the greatness of what Ahmed had done for John. The combat sequences are captured grippingly, and the lack of overtly cinematic gaze actually works in favor of the film as it is not your stylized war movie package.

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant is an extremely humane story that effectively emphasizes the empathetic moments of that journey. Even though the plot is not divulging too much about the people around these two central characters, the film gives us a wholesome picture of the associated trauma. If you enjoy watching subtle portrayals of deep bonds between individuals, then The Covenant is indeed your cup of tea.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoy watching subtle portrayals of deep bonds between individuals, then The Covenant is indeed your cup of tea.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.