Blu-ray Review: Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

Guy Ritchie's The Covenant

I’m honestly not sure how soldiers do it, as any time I watch a war film where soldiers are in hostile territory, I can’t help but be on edge the entire time even though I’m sitting in my living room. I’m constantly nervous, taking in the story while waiting for a sniper’s bullet to zing by and take someone out with a headshot, right before an all-out firefight ensues. One minute that person is talking about something like growing up on a farm, and the next, they’re a memory. It’s just the automatic mindset I tend to fall into when it comes to war films, which I’m not sure is a normal thing to have happen, but it definitely ups the viewing tension in a genre that’s already full of it.

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant falls into this category, which takes place in Afghanistan in 2018, and sees U.S. Army Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his unit on the hunt for the locations where the Taliban make their bombs. There’s an immediate sense of caution, realizing that these explosives could be hidden anywhere, and these soldiers are in a place where they’re seen as either potential saviors or evil invaders, depending on who is asked. Basically, everywhere and everyone must be seen as potentially hostile, and that right there puts the tension level into the red.

At the start of the film Ritchie does make the bizarre choice to plaster the names of each unit member onto the screen in quick fashion, as each throw remarks back and forth just to make sure everyone has a line, and their name can be revealed. As I tried to take the names in (they’re long too, like Eduardo ‘Chow Chow’ Lopez, and then his rank, followed by Charlie ‘Jizzy’ Crow, and his rank) I realized that if they matter and grow as characters then I’ll learn their names that way. I’ll put your mind at ease right now and say that none of their names matter, as the true focus of this film is the relationship between Sergeant Kinley and the unit’s interpreter, Ahmed (Dar Salim).

Ahmed is an interpreter who has been doing the job for years and is someone who others have had trouble working with. He also has a history with the Taliban, having been affiliated with them previously, only to defect completely when they killed his son. Now he interprets for the US with the promise of gaining visas and passage to America for himself, his wife, and their unborn child.

While following up on a potential bomb cache lead, the unit is attacked by Taliban reinforcements. Kinley and Ahmed are able to escape on foot, but find themselves deep in enemy territory, 62 miles away from the closest air base. Now they’re being hunted and together must find a way back to safety before they’re caught, tortured, and killed.

Ritchie does a fantastic job of putting the viewer into the thick of things here, really giving off a survival vibe on a level I haven’t felt in a long while. As Kinley and Ahmed sneak through the unforgiving enemy terrain, the proper time is taken as they listen to nearby Taliban soldiers, or even footsteps closing in. We even get some great shots from the perspective of Kinley, peaking cautiously around a rock, uncertain of what’s on the other side. It’s not overdone, but how well its done must be commended, because it really just leaves you holding your breath without even realizing you’re doing so because of the danger our protagonists find themselves in.

I went into this film knowing nothing about it, without watching a trailer, or even reading the back of the slipcase, and I’m happy I did and recommend you do the same, if possible. I mean, you’ll know by now if this is your type of movie, but I found that going in blind just made things more exciting and kept the tension high, as having watched the trailer after seeing the movie I feel that it summarizes a large portion of the film in a way that would’ve taken away from the overall vibe had I watched it prior. Ritchie does too fantastic a job at creating a tension-filled atmosphere, and telling a well-paced, captivating story of brotherhood to have it diminished by a two-minute highlight package.

This is the first film I’m aware of that deals with the interpreter situation that made news not long ago when the U.S. soldiers finally pulled out of Afghanistan. In return for their help in taking down the Taliban, thousands of interpreters were promised visas during the time that U.S. soldiers were stationed there, only to be left behind when North American soldiers pulled out. It’s a truly heartbreaking situation, which I’m sure weighed on many U.S. soldiers who considered these men their brothers-in-arms. While a fictional story with completely fictional characters, The Covenant does a wonderful job of bringing this to the forefront once again, as it’s not something that should be forgotten.

Overall Movie Score: 4/5

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

The picture looks superb in this top tier 1080p transfer of the film. The majority of the movie takes place in the desert/rocky terrain, and it’s all captured beautifully. It’s an incredibly sharp image that picks up details both on the characters and the landscape, and this all helps when putting the viewer into the action. Everything happens so clearly that you can’t help but feel a part of it, and it’s just about as nice as you can hope for from your Blu-ray releases these days.

The audio side of things is just as impressive, with the Dolby Atmos track booming from all sides. From the film’s opening moments it’s clear that this is a treat for those with surround sound, as tension builds from all angles, and once the firefights to begin, well, those come from all sides too. When Kinley and Ahmed are being wary of their surroundings, peaking around corners, the audio is right there with them, having voices coming from the back right corner, or a branch snapping in the front left. It’s a magnificent job for a film that aims to bring the viewer into the moment.

Special Features:

There’s a digital copy of the film in the case, but in terms of features on the disc, there are unfortunately none. It would’ve been great to have even had a short behind-the-scenes piece to hear from the actors involved, but sometimes it just wasn’t meant to be.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this Blu-ray was sent to me to cover in honest and truthful fashion.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant. Directed by: Guy Ritchie. Written by: Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dar Salim, Jonny Lee Miller, Antony Starr, Sean Sagar, Jason Wong, Rhys Yates, Christian Ochoa Lavernia, Emily Beecham, Alexander Ludwig, Reza Diako, Gary Anthony Stennette. Running time: 123 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: June 20, 2023.

Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.