There are multiple ways to look at Guy Ritchie's The Covenant. On one side, you have a war movie where a sergeant, John (Jake Gyllenhaal), and his team of soldiers sniff out Taliban activity. On another side, you have a survival movie where John and his interpreter, Ahmed (Dar Salim), avoid getting discovered by the Taliban. The third angle can be viewed through the lens of bromance. John finds it difficult to stop thinking about Ahmed, and Ahmed mentions John's beautiful blue eyes to his brother.
One of the techniques Ritchie uses in the film is that he slowly pushes the camera in and out of John and Ahmed's faces at various points. We sense that the two men are reading each other's minds by tuning themselves to the same frequency. Like this camera movement, these two men will at first be drawn to each other and then get separated (temporarily). After their "break-up," the movie turns into a rescue operation as John plans on returning to Afghanistan to save Ahmed.
I won't beat around the bush and come directly to the point. The Covenant is covered with mediocrity. It's one of those films where your eyes desperately search for something fresh or remarkable, only to be hit with disappointment. You give up all hope after a while because the movie doesn't mind being okayish. There are little delights sprinkled here and there in the story, like that scene where John quietly signals Ahmed to step back after noticing Taliban men above them, but they do little to add suspense to the movie. And The Covenant is sorely lacking in excitement, tension, and other good things.
The action sequences are competently shot, but that's mainly what they are: Technically serviceable. You never bite your nails in trepidation because you never believe John and Ahmed are in real danger. When the interpreter carries the wounded American soldier to the base, his struggles are filmed with the rousing intensity of an inspirational training montage. You admire Ahmed's brawn without worrying about John's life. Ritchie is uninterested in examining his characters. He merely manipulates them to fulfill the plot requirements. John's angry outbursts are devoid of vehemence. He screams at his phone like an actor pretending to scream at his phone. This means Gyllenhaal is just sleepwalking in the film. He knows he isn't required to be brilliant, as the material (and the director) need him to just exist in the frame and make "serious faces."
The Covenant is packed with conventional choices. Ritchie recycles the proverbial wheel earnestly, and you can "accept this film for what it is." For instance, during the final showdown on a bridge, the camera intently looks at John and his companions while the sound is muted as the good guys think they cannot make it out alive. Sure, this scene is properly handled, though it's also impossible to ignore that it's lacking in uncertainty. The bad guys merely bark orders from their phones/walkie-talkies or receive headshots from the good guys. They are dumb and incompetent. With clumsy enemies like these, how can you ever believe the characters are risking their lives?
To put it politely, The Covenant is not boring. It does not make you yawn. It's also not infuriating. The movie is just forgettable; you can put it on to pass your time. I have seen school plays with more vitality.
Get all latest content delivered to your email a few times a month.
Bringing Pop Culture News from Every Realm, Get All the Latest Movie, TV News, Reviews & Trailers
Got Any questions? Drop an email to [email protected]