‘The Covenant’ review round-up: Guy Ritchie and Jake Gyllenhaal emerge as a ‘well-meshed Hollywood duo’

On April 21, “‘Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant” was released by MGM, with Guy Ritchie at the helm as director, writer and producer. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as US Army Sergeant John Kinley, who is saved by an Afghan interpreter named Ahmed (Dar Salim). When Ahmed’s life is later threatened for doing so, Kinley returns to Afghanistan to rescue him from the Taliban.

The movie opened to predominantly positive reviews, holding fresh at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the critics’ consensus reading, “A satisfying, well-acted war thriller with surprising dramatic depths, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant tells a solid story with impressive restraint.”  The ensemble cast includes Jonny Lee Miller, Antony Starr, Alexander Ludwig, Fahim Fazli, Jason Wong and Emily Beecham. Read our full review round-up below.

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Roger Moore of Movie Nation writes, “Ritchie’s giving us a modern American take on ‘Gunga Din,’ a fictional US military spin on themes from other classic tales of combat valor, the ‘code’ of such men and the psychological cost of survivor’s guilt.” He adds, “The lead performances are all top drawer, with Salim excelling at letting us see the wheels turn even as Ahmed hides most of his cards, giving them up only slowly. Emily Beecham is terrific as the wife and mother ‘back home’ who doesn’t question her husband’s quest. Jonny Lee Miller holds his own as a canny commanding officer who’s learned to look the other way as the need arises.” 

Matt Donato of IGN Movies writes that the leads shine before adding, “The villain of ‘The Covenant’ is its runtime, clocking in just over two hours with a whole lot of fat left on the steak that feels like it should’ve been trimmed.” He continues, “Spirited performances and palpable survivalist tension save the day as far as ‘The Covenant’ is concerned, despite an overlong duration being its own worst enemy.” 

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Josh Parham of Next Best Picture was less impressed, noting, “Its results are just as mundane as many efforts which preceded it.” Parham adds, “The piece is competently assembled but lacks the vitality to distinguish it from similarly trodden terrain. Those lacking aspects occasionally flare up in the second half, where the depictions of the traumatic flashback memories are like frenzied hallucinations. These touches are what Ritchie is more known for, and they are effective in crafting a more engaging composition. Still, those moments are few and far between, leaving a tedious pace to fill the void.” 

Dan Mecca of The Film Stage praises the film, writing, “In its best moments, ‘The Covenant’ plays like an anti-war genre picture from the late ’70s and early ’80s. Political in spurts, intense throughout, and incredibly well-performed, Ritchie’s film moves faster than most modern studio fare.” In conclusion Mecca says, “For the most part, ‘The Covenant’ is about the bond between brothers and sisters in arms, and the need to rely on each other when systems fail their pledges. Third-act qualms aside, Gyllenhaal and Ritchie emerge as a well-meshed Hollywood duo here. One hopes this is the first of a few collaborations.”

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