Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a former Army sergeant and Dar Salim as his former interpreter now trapped in an Afghanistan once again ruled by the Taliban, debuts this weekend. 

At the Los Angeles premiere earlier this week, Gyllenhaal offered some perspective on what drew him to the role and why he enjoys portraying service members on the big screen. 

“At the beginning of my career I played a Marine, a recruit, and I got to know a lot of people in the military and learn from them,” the actor told The Associated Press. “And I think it changed my perspective on the world. Just even being around and sort of touching that world just a bit.”

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In Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, Gyllenhaal plays Sgt. John Kinley, an Army special operations soldier who, over the course of a deployment to Afghanistan, forms a bond with his interpreter, Ahmed, played by Dar Salim. When Kinley’s team is ambushed and he is wounded, it falls upon Ahmed to carry him across the countryside back to a U.S. base, evading capture along the way. Years later, Ahmed and his family are living in hiding, having been unable to escape the country during the U.S. evacuation in August 2021. Frustrated by any legal channels to secure Ahmed’s safety, Kinley then resolves to return to the country on a rescue mission of his own. 

“I have throughout my career played people who are ex-military, people who have a history in that, and I’ve learned so much from that group,” Gyllenhaal said at the premiere. “And there’s so much pride and love, the people that defend our freedom, that I am drawn to that story.”

Before Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant – and yes, that is the full title of the film – he starred in  2005’s Jarhead, in which Gyllenhaal played a young Marine scout sniper deployed to the Gulf War. In Source Code, he played an Army Captain who must continually navigate his way through a computer simulation to foil a terrorist attack, which only veers the slightly more into the realm of fantasy than returning to Afghanistan in 2023 as a one-man commando squad. If you want to expand the definition of military roles even further, Gyllenhaal’s Los Angeles Police Department character in 2012’s End of Watch is also depicted as a Marine Corps veteran. 

“I’m also drawn to characters in extreme circumstances, I think, because I think it brings out the humanity,” the actor told The Associated Press this week. “And there’s no better characters in an extreme circumstance than a soldier in particular.”

The plot of this latest film is a bit far-fetched, but the sentiment behind it – and the ongoing plight of thousands of Afghans and their families who worked with and for the U.S. military during 20 years of fighting in Afghanistan and today remained trapped there or in refugee camps – is certainly salient in 2023. 

And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t like playing soldier every once in a while?

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant debuts nationwide this weekend. 

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