Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Distributed by: Metro-Golden-Mayer
Written by Alexander Reams
When it’s all said and done, Guy Ritchie’s filmography will be in contention for one of the most varied, he’s an auteur who turns the griminess of Britain’s underworld into art, a studio player who manages to deliver films that feel like a Guy Ritchie film but kept the advantages to big studio money. Ritchie is also in need of a win after the colossal misfire that was “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,” a film so obsessed with its own campiness that it forgets that films need certain things, character development, an emotional arc for someone to go on, action sequences that are filmed by some who knows how to frame it. All of this can be found in Ritchie’s second 2023 film, “The Covenant.” A war story that seems very out of place for Ritchie, but this is the Ritchie that made “The Gentlemen,” “Snatch,” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” all in one.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s John Kinley is the standard leader in a war film, gruff, bends the rules to get results, and shouts a lot. It’s fairly pedestrian when you look at it on paper, but this is Lou Bloom, Mysterio, and the greatest bank robber to drive an ambulance all rolled up in one. Gyllenhaal brings all of this to Kinley, and through that, we get a front-row seat to his mindset throughout the journey, from the way he stands to where his hand is placed on his firearm, every move tells us something new about Kinley. His job in Afghanistan is to find IEDs and is assisted by translators, the latest of whom is Ahmed (Dar Salim). After an ambush, the pair are stranded 100 kilometers away from their base and must make it back while being pursued by the Taliban. Gyllenhaal’s Kinley is the keeper of the titular covenant, the one who is promised is Dar Salim’s Ahmed. Salim’s performance here is the greatest takeaway from “The Covenant,” this is the type of performance “Film Twitter” could, and should, champion. It’s very quiet, but his presence is in every scene.
Marketing has framed this film as an action film, “The Covenant” is a meditation on promises in wartime. The ability to keep one’s word when the world crumbles is a cathedral-sized idea, so only a performer of that magnitude could convey these themes Ritchie has created. Recently, Gyllenhaal has jumped from one action film director to another, from Fuqua to Bay, and now teams up with the masterful Brit in a piece that demands the raw physicality Gyllenhaal brings to every performance, but also the quiet sadness that is needed for someone stranded in a country that’s full of people who want to kill him. “The Covenant” is a defense for why faith should not be lost in Ritchie, and is hopefully the start of another winning streak.
“Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant” Trailer