Kandahar strikes at the heart of geopolitical and human rights issues embroiling the Middle East. The premise has an undercover operative and his translator trying to escape Afghanistan after their cover is blown. Different perspectives are seen as multiple factions try to capture the Western spies. A complex plot overreaches with intricacy and gets bogged down at various points. Slick action scenes, especially a spectacular nighttime helicopter chase, rescue the narrative from lulls. It’s a firestorm of conflict told with a respectful handling of Islamic religious views.
In Iran, soldiers watch from above as a pair of contractors work feverishly to fix underground wires. Tom Harris (Gerard Butler) whispers as he secretly communicates with a CIA command center in the US. Oliver (Tom Rhys Harries) holds the Revolutionary Guards at bay as they wonder what’s taking so long. Tom attaches a device that will monitor and install a virus targeting Iranian nuclear facilities. He deflates tension by showing a soccer game on his phone. Everyone will now have better internet.
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In Dubai, Roman (Travis Fimmel), another CIA operative, coordinates with a nervous Mohamed (Navid Negahban) as he lands at the airport in Kabul. It’s his first time back in Afghanistan after fleeing the Taliban’s resurgence. Mo isn’t a soldier or spy. He accepted the mission to find his sister-in-law. She disappeared when the Taliban outlawed female teachers and education.
Blood for Treachery
Open Road Films
Tom’s gambit proves to be a stunning success. The furious Iranian regime demands blood for such treachery. Farzad (Bahador Foladi) is assigned the task of hunting down the saboteurs. His job gets easier when the Ministry of Intelligence intercepts a phone call to a British reporter (Nina Toussaint-White). Her mole in the Pentagon has released the agents’ identities to the global media. Roman informs Tom they must flee immediately or risk execution. Meanwhile, in a meeting with Taliban warlords, Pakistani ISI officer Kahil (Ali Fazal) issues a stern order. The CIA will extract their team in Afghanistan. He wants them found and captured alive.
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Director Ric Roman Waugh (Felon, Angel Has Fallen) thoughtfully explores gray areas. Farzad and the bad-a**, motorcycle-riding Kahil aren’t painted with the same villainous brush. They’re just as loyal to their respective countries and cause. Iran and Pakistan are players in the dangerous game of nuclear proliferation. They engage with the oppressive Taliban to further their own agendas.
Waugh and Butler get serious cool points for an incredible action scene. Farzad pursues Tom in a helicopter. They have a thrilling cat and mouse chase in the pitch black desert. Tom’s night vision goggles bathe the environment in eerie green. The helicopter uses FLIR thermographic imaging to illuminate the ground below. They engage in a fierce gun battle that looks amazing. Quick cuts between the aerial onslaught and Tom’s returning fire will have your adrenaline pumping.
The Taliban crushes dissent and women’s rights under an Islamic religious banner. Mohamed and Roman are portrayed as devout Muslims. We see them praying and invoking Allah in times of crisis. They are committed to fighting extremism and the hijacking of their faith. Hollywood rarely shows such nuance. Kandahar deserves credit for being cerebral between bullets and explosions.
Kandahar is a production of Thunder Road Films, G-Base, MBC Studios, and Capstone Global. It will have a May 26th theatrical release from Open Road Films.
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