By Mark Fields
International news headlines have bemoaned the fact that the U.S.’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan stranded many local interpreters in country, facing reprisals from the Taliban for their cooperation with the American troops. Inspired by the betrayal of these interpreters (who were promised visas and new lives in the U.S. before being abandoned), Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant is a fictional story that serves as a kind of wish fulfillment of another, more honorable response. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Sergeant John Kinley, a stalwart, conscientious unit commander who develops a close bond with his no-nonsense interpreter, Ahmed (Dar Salim). After Ahmed demonstrates extraordinary self-sacrifice, John tries to return the favor and rescue Ahmed and his family out of Afghanistan despite the personal risks and in defiance of military bureaucracy. Director Guy Ritchie, best known for his high-octane action extravaganzas such as Snatch and Sherlock Holmes, seems an unlikely choice for this project, but he brings dramatic tension and taut pacing to the drama. There’s more than a whiff of improbability about the major plot points in The Covenant, but that doesn’t detract from the compelling human story at its center.