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Gerard Butler tones down the butt kicking in Kandahar

Updated: May 27, 2023



Action maven Gerard Butler reunites with director Ric Roman Waugh for the third time in Kandahar from Open Road Films. Mitchell LaFortune, a former military intelligence officer, wrote the script. He drew inspiration from his experience working for the Defense Intelligence Agency and his deployment to Afghanistan during the Snowden leaks in 2013.


Tom Harris (Butler), an undercover CIA operative, is stuck deep in hostile territory in Afghanistan. When an intelligence leak exposes his identity and mission, he must fight his way out, alongside his Afghan translator "Mo" (Navid Negahban), to an extraction point in Kandahar while avoiding the elite special forces unit tasked with hunting them down.


Kandahar could have easily fallen into two tropes for the sake of a dollar. The first is a buddy comedy focusing on the unlikely relationship between Mo and Tom. The second is a typical actioner that we all love from our star. Thankfully, Kandahar takes a different approach. Similar to Guy Ritchie's recently released The Covenant, the film is unique in incorporating political intrigue into the story. Complex conversations within the film are difficult for those with less knowledge of Middle Eastern politics. However, this surely helps the film to make its message clear.

Expertly crafted, characters are woven together carefully and used as tools for conveying narrative - a narrative that bounces between extremes of emotion. Again reflecting on the critical issues, scenes occur across multiple countries and locations - each offering insight into the current state of affairs between various nations. It quickly becomes evident how powerful these small details are in communicating a more significant commentary about world events.


Gerard Butler is an admirable action movie star in this film, so it's no surprise that the simplification of the storyline in the latter half of the film works. The charming and captivating Ali Fazal plays the role of Kahil, the Pakistani spy who searches far and wide for Harris. Sporting a sleek black motorcycle, he navigates the desert areas to pursue his target.


A smooth talker with absolute confidence, Kahil advises the Taliban to adapt to modern times by ceasing their brutal beheadings. Alongside Farzad Asadi (Bahador Foladi), Fazal presents an image of calm assurance as they attempt to keep Harris under check. He also warns young militant children, urging them to read the Quran instead of going along with violent men.

Director Ric Roman Waugh does his best to ensure that both action scenes and tension are highlighted as critical points in this style of filmmaking. While some scenes appear extraneous or meaningless to the narrative development and pacing, they serve another purpose- to raise specific issues seen on political talk shows. Overall, this movie isn't just about an adrenaline-filled adventure like its advertising suggests; it's more about dramatized discussion topics.


Every director wants to find an actor with whom they share kindred chemistry. The late great John Singleton had it with Tyrese Gibson, and the legend Martin Scorsese shares it with Robert De Niro and Leonardo Dicaprio. And when it comes to popcorn entertainment, Ric Roman Waugh and Gerad Butler are adding their names to the last. After successfully collaborating on Angel Has Fallen and Greenland, the duo tones down the action for their third venture with surprising results.

Final Grade : B-

Kandahar is in theaters now


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