Another day, another mediocre Gerard Butler action movie. Kandahar is a movie offering a bit more sprawling story and an exotic Middle Eastern setting to counter its genericness. After all, when you run out of bad guys, you just go to the endless well that is this region. We will be following an undercover CIA operative who must complete a very dangerous mission in Afghanistan. Our fearless and weary hero will be joined by an interpreter just like we saw in Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant. The two movies feel awfully similar right down to the action sequences. Although Kandahar is directed by Ric Roman Waugh who worked with Butler on the Angel Has Fallen. He will also direct the next installment in this franchise.
The story here features a surprising amount of potent elements. We’ve got nukes, hacks, and a lot of international intrigue. It’s all down to that script written by Mitchell LaFortune, a former military intelligence officer. You can actually consider it as a light version of the popular tv show Homeland complete with that infamous excavator. However, do not expect some intriguing or overly complex plot. Kandahar is more reminiscent of all those nineties action movies. The production values are relatively okay as they maximized the impact of several cool CGI scenes. They look pretty awesome and like they belong in a much bigger movie.
I also appreciated a bit different representation of Muslims and their religion. They’re not portrayed in the usual overly negative light as the movie tried to remain as neutral as it could be. This could be the consequence of the filming location (UAE) and Saudi’s generous cash rebate (40%). The locations we will be visiting look absolutely stunning and the landscapes are out of this world. Still, it was refreshing to see that one of the main characters Roman (Travis Fimmel) is now a Muslim after spending so much time in that region. It also adds to the realism of the movie. However, make no mistake, Kandahar will feature several very unrealistic scenes and you will need to suspend your belief to go along with it.
Tom Harris is an experienced CIA operative who just completed a dangerous mission in Iran. After he helped them infiltrate their nuclear facility, Tom is anxiously awaiting his return home. He especially wants to see his daughter but before he does that, he needs to see his handler in United Arab Emirates. As it usually happens, it turns out that there’s another even more dangerous mission waiting for him there. Herat, Afghanistan is his next destination where an interpreter is already waiting for him. It’s another undercover black ops mission that should go smoothly. However, a leak soon outs his identity and both Tom and his interpreter Mo find themselves in the middle of a shitstorm.
Not quite sure if it’s a spy drama or a straight action movie, Kandahar turns out to be neither. It follows the tradition of a string of recent Butler movies like Plane and Last Seen Alive. Although considering the plot, it’s most similar to his 2018 submarine movie Hunter Killer. It’s just mildly entertaining benefiting from another strong performance by its lead actor. I wonder how many of these movies we’re going to get? It would appear that Gerard is singlehandedly keeping this subgenre of forgettable and yet watchable old-school action movies alive.
Another aspect I found interesting was the modern application of the Sharia Law and the conflicts it produces. We see the inevitable integration with the modern way of life complete with selfies and dating apps. And don’t get me started on the parties. Although all of this is in the background of the main story.