The final evacuation of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan played out in real-time across screens back in 2021, so it makes sense that it would become fodder for new action flicks on the big screen.

But the new trailer for the upcoming Afghan war movie Kandahar, which dropped on Tuesday, is a departure from what you might expect of an Afghanistan evac movie. Set for a Memorial Day release, Gerard Butler stars as a CIA agent fleeing with his interpreter companion in search of rescue, presumably somewhere near Kandahar, Afghanistan. 

The trailer features guns, explosions, and Butler making no effort to conceal his natural Scottish accent despite theoretically playing an American CIA agent. Ostensibly, it looks like some solid B-movie schlock. 

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Unlike other upcoming films in the oeuvre of getting the hell out of Afghanistan — such as Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant or a still-unnamed project starring Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum that was announced less than 60 days after the fall of Kabul — the upcoming Butler project isn’t explicitly about the 2021 evacuation from Afghanistan. Instead, the film incorporates other storylines from decades of conflict in the region, including Butler’s CIA agent character apparently sabotaging an Iranian nuclear weapons program. When his cover is blown soon after that mission, Butler’s character must flee across hundreds of miles of hostile territory to “an extraction point, in Kandahar Province,” rescuing his faithful interpreter, fixer, and friend, played by Navid Negahban, in the process.

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Now, there are no direct references to the evacuation from Kabul here, but the parallels are clear. Butler’s CIA agent is clearly an operator-type, who has to work against all odds to rescue the noble interpreter who has fought beside him — something that has happened countless times in real life since August 2021, although those battles have been fought on phone lines and in email chains, trying to work through bureaucratic red-tape and the chaos of a collapsing government to secure passage to a safer place for the tens of thousands of Afghan citizens who backed up U.S. and NATO personnel from 2001 to 2021. All told, more than 75,000 Afghans were evacuated to the U.S. in August 2021 along with almost 50,000 elsewhere, and thousands more have fled the country since. 

Near the end of the trailer, Butler’s character says, “No one is coming to rescue us.” This is true of the thousands of Afghans who remain stranded in Afghanistan or as refugees elsewhere. In the realm of action thrillers, though, there is salvation, and when it comes to the big screen, many perceived wrongs will be righted this spring: Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant debuts on April 21, and Kandahar will follow the month after that.

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