Rob Reviews "Guy Ritchie's The Covenant"
Guy Ritchie used to be a guy who really had a niche audience, but he has really evolved in the last few years. Earlier this year specifically, he gave us the much-anticipated Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre which may have underperformed at the box office but was a hit with myself and those I was able to speak with that have seen it since. The argument could be made that this was not very far off from the type of film he typically makes, but there has been growth from the days of Snatch or Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. He now has another film in theaters less than sixty days later with Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant¸ and this level of departure was definitely a gamble on his part, but it pays off.
I only saw the trailer for this film once as an ad break on a YouTube video I was watching, and I was mildly interested. We have seen a number of films having to do with America’s involvement in the Middle East in the last two decades, and this appeared to be another one that I would sit through without seeing anything that stood out or brought a perspective that we have not yet seen, but this script actually does both. Jake Gyllenhaal plays U.S. Army Sergeant John Kinley, who leads a team of soldiers throughout Afghanistan looking for facilities making bombs in the early 2000s. After losing a member of his unit and their interpreter, he gets a new interpreter in Ahmed (Dar Salim from The Devil’s Double and Game of Thrones), who is rough around the edges but brings value to the team. After tragedy brings them closer, Kinley must work to get him the Immigration Visa that our government promises people like Ahmed that help our troops do their jobs.
If there is a problem with this film, it lies in the first half. Doing my best not to spoil anything within the plot itself, the narrative of what strengthens the bond of these two characters REALLY takes its time. While I understand the reasoning behind the choice made by Ritchie on that front, it could have been done in about half the time that is uses to unfold the middle third of a film that clears the two-hour mark.
Outside of that, I truly enjoyed this film on every level. The performances (which also features Vikings mainstay Alexander Ludwig and a Jonny Lee Miller that reminded me of how old I truly am) are spot-on with the actors showing the balance of warmth and frigid that is necessary to be able to do what they do. Emily Beecham (who I know as The Widow from Into the Badlands) is also great here as John’s wife back home, and if the second act was trimmed down a bit, I feel that there could have been more time for her to shine as well.
I also want to point out the outstanding work done by Christopher Benstead, who is working with Ritchie on his fourth straight film and has a vast amount of movie music experience coming with him. His use of darker melodic motifs ramps the intensity of an already edge-of-your-seat script that much more without making it so every major moment is not telegraphed by his compositions. He also does not rely on traditional symphonic moods normally written for films like this; there is a hint there, but he relies on the narrative to drive his score and not the other way around.
2023 continues to be a great year for film, and we are not even a third of the way through it. Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant is one of those films that may not get to a mass audience, but it is one that I believe should get the respect it deserves no matter how it is seen. Whether you catch it in its theatrical run, on streaming, or even on home video, do so!