You may not know the name of Ric Roman Waugh off the top of your head, but trust me: you will. A longtime stuntman in movies dating back to the ‘80s, he took the director’s chair officially in the ‘00s with a voice in the action/adventure genre that blends the old school with a new that has picked up the pace in the last few years, and now he teams with Gerard Butler for the third time in Kandahar.
Butler plays Tom Harris, a longtime undercover agent working in the Middle East on some incredibly dangerous missions. When a reporter (Nina Toussaint-White) blows his cover after a very volatile mission, he finds himself caught being hunted by a number of different groups alongside his translator, Mo (Navid Negahban).
This is an action film that does what films of its ilk tends to struggle with and that is telling a solid story. We had the privilege to spend some time with Waugh after the screening for a Q&A, and I was fascinated to hear about his process. There are five different languages represented (with their subtitling done in a bit of a different and cool way), along with multiple storylines that helped me understand all of the stakes not only from our protagonists, but even the protagonists and those they report to at the same time. Each mid to main character even had me sympathizing with them at different points in the story supplied by just enough backstory to not overwhelm the main narrative itself, which is also something that is tough to do no matter the genre or medium. Each and every actor that is brought in here understands the assignment and handles their roles convincingly, especially given the twists and turns this script takes that even kept a guy like me guessing from time to time. Also being only the second film ever to be completely filmed in Saudi Arabia, it gives a further realism to the script itself that drew me even further into the journey and experience.
This all builds to a climax that simply must be seen to believe, especially knowing now what I was not one hundred percent sure of at the time. Almost every visual here is practical including massive explosions and stunts that are performed to razor-sharp precision. One sequence in particular that happens at night in the desert is done impressively given the number of standpoints that need to be represented visually for the entire scene to work.
To say that Kandahar exceeded my expectations is a bit of an understatement. This is definitely a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen to truly appreciate its aesthetics both visually and audibly. I have every intention of seeing this again in any way I can so I can see what kinds of things I may have missed the first time as part of what is shaping up to be the best summer movie season in a LONG time.