Guy Ritchie’s latest, The Covenant, may not have been a lighthearted comedy, but it doesn’t sound like a difficult one for the director and his cast. Despite being set in Afghanistan’s harsh and unforgiving terrain, Ritchie claims that filming in Spain was “incredibly fun” and that he and his crew had “a lovely time on set.”
Two men, a U.S. Army Sergeant named John Kinley (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and an Afghan interpreter named Ahmed (played by Dar Salim), are stranded in hostile territory following a deadly ambush by the Taliban. The Covenant tells the story of these two men.
Because Kinley is injured and unable to move, Ahmed must literally drag him to safety through hostile territory. This demonstration of gallantry places Kinley in an ethical obligation to Ahmed, and the two men should cooperate to get by and defeated the difficulties they face.
Despite the serious and depressing nature of The Covenant’s subject matter, Ritchie’s comments imply that the environment on set was everything but oppressive. Perhaps the pleasant Spanish weather, the mouthwatering local cuisine, or the comradery between the director and his performers contributed to the production’s success.
Important Person Ritchie is no more unusual to intense and testing shoots. Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, two of his earlier films, featured intricate and frantic action sequences that required careful planning and execution.
However, Ritchie appears to have taken a more restrained approach with The Covenant, putting more emphasis on character development and emotional depth than on flashy set pieces.
Human Cost of War
It’s also worth noting that the subject matter of The Covenant is particularly timely, given the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and the recent withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. The film offers a sobering and thought-provoking look at the toll that war takes on those who fight it, as well as the importance of compassion and empathy in even the most dire of circumstances.
In the end, whether or not The Covenant was a fun movie to make is perhaps beside the point. What matters is the impact that it has on audiences, and the important themes that it explores.
If Guy Ritchie’s latest film can offer a meaningful and insightful commentary on the human cost of war, then it will have been worth the effort that went into its creation, regardless of how enjoyable the shoot may have been.
The film was inspired by real-life stories of local interpreters who have been abandoned by the U.S. and British authorities after the troops withdrew from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ritchie co-wrote the film’s script with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, and was drawn to the project by the sense of brotherhood and the bonds formed between the troops and the local interpreters. He was struck by the fact that the American administration was unable to facilitate their deal to look after their Afghan colleagues, and wanted to honor the tacit or explicit contract between them.
The director describes the film’s plot as “an amalgam of different stories from Afghanistan and Iraq, both English and American.” He wanted to explore the pain felt by both parties when the bond they formed is separated, and the complications of not being able to facilitate the contract of looking after their colleagues.
For Ritchie, The Covenant was an opportunity to challenge himself as a director and to cover as many genres of film as possible. He has made it his business to be promiscuous with film, trying to keep himself stimulated and enjoy the whole process. The director was motivated to take on the challenge of directing The Covenant due to his desire to challenge himself, which is the same motivation that led him to direct the live-action remake of Aladdin in 2019.
While The Covenant may not be a typical Guy Ritchie film, it offers a unique and important perspective on the human cost of war, and the bonds that can form between individuals from different cultures and backgrounds.
As the filmmaker himself says, “I hope that the film will give a wider audience an understanding of what it’s like to be in a very hostile situation and to understand that brotherhood and togetherness can sometimes be overcome.”
The director co-wrote the script with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, and finding the right actors for the roles of John Kinley and Ahmed was a challenging process. However, he was pleased with his casting choices, both for their performances in front of the camera and their conviviality away from it.
“They came with a wonderful attitude and could very swiftly shift from having a conspicuously fun time to being consummate professionals,” Ritchie said of Gyllenhaal and Salim. “Some of my darkest moments in filmmaking, 30 seconds before, you’re laughing hysterically. You’re sure it’s going to contaminate the essence of the performance that the actor then has to embody and express. A great actor goes from laughing like a drain to crying a river within 10 seconds. It’s an impressive thing to behold when you see that.”
Gyllenhaal echoed Ritchie’s sentiment and said that he had a good time making the movie. “He knows how to make a real community around him,” Gyllenhaal said of Ritchie.
Sequences in the Movie
One of the most difficult aspects of making the film, according to Ritchie, was finding the right actors for the lead roles. “It was a painful process of trying to find the appropriate actors that, A, understand the work and, B, are up for that work,” he said. But he ultimately found his perfect leads in Gyllenhaal and Salim, both of whom he praised for their professionalism and willingness to take risks.
The director also spoke about a key scene in the film that was not originally in the script. The sequence in question involved Salim’s character, Ahmed, rescuing Kinley, played by Emily Beecham. Ritchie said the scene was conceived on the fly and filmed over the course of eight weeks, with a couple of hours dedicated to it at the end of each day.
Despite the challenges of making “The Covenant,” Ritchie seems to have enjoyed the process. He praised his cast and crew for their professionalism and camaraderie on set, and spoke positively about his experience making the film in Turkey. Currently, the director is working on a new movie called “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,” which reunites him with his “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” star Henry Cavill.
“The Covenant” is now playing in theaters and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Dar Salim, Antony Starr, Alexander Ludwig, Bobby Schofield, Emily Beecham, and Jonny Lee Miller.
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