Don Reviews "Kandahar"
Just about everyone out there has seen a film where you leave with questions about anything from story to plot to a deeper understanding of the process. Film festivals are a great place to find out those answers with filmmakers of all levels doing Q&A sessions following the showing of their films, but every once and again we are fortunate to do so outside of film festivals. This happened recently for our screening of Kandahar with its director, Ric Roman Waugh.
Waugh’s latest film is his third with Gerard Butler, who this time around plays Tom Harris, an undercover agent working black ops missions in the Middle East. While on one of these top-secret missions, his cover is blown and he winds up trapped deep in enemy territory with his translator, Moe (Navid Negahban) and has to work with anyone they can ally with to get home safely.
One of the things I loved about this film was the cinematography itself and found out from Waugh that they are only the second film ever to completely film in Saudi Arabia. That alone gave me a great sense of realism, but to also find out the number of different military and intelligence personnel that he worked with to keep a high level of integrity here made it that much better, especially when dealing with subjects like the after-effects of war in the region. Almost all of the visual effects are practical as well, and that was incredibly impressive, especially in the big scene towards the end. Butler does the normal level of performance that I am used to with him (especially in this genre), but I also wanted to recognize Travis Fimmel, who plays one of the contractors Harris deals with and gets him into this particular situation. His portrayal of a man who has to balance his loyalties to his belief and faith systems really kept me interested.
If I have one criticism of Kandahar, it is that in its two-hour run time, the last act got a bit confusion with the number of different factions that were hunting for Tom and Moe. There is a lot going on in that last third of the film, and it took a bit to keep up, which is not necessarily a bad thing given everything going on. It may be a bit much for some, though.
Something else I want to point out here is the use of the subtitles and its presentation. There are five different languages represented, and the subtitles actually worked in the center of the screen and showed both the actual written dialect along with English translation. For a guy who does not like to deal with subtitles, my level of appreciation here is truly high praise. The score and traditional music used in this film also fits what is going on REALLY well, and I even asked Waugh about it during the Q&A, who had nothing but glowing praise for composer David Buckley. He also said that his goal with all of this film and especially Kandahar was to get people back to the theaters, and I agree in order to get the full experience of what he has done. It is well-known that I do not say this often, but this film gets my coveted full price in the theaters rating, and if it is in a premium format, it will be well worth it.