Friday 29 March 2024

Movie Review: Kandahar (2023)

Genre: Action Thriller  
Also Known As: Mission Kandahar  
Director: Ric Roman Waugh  
Starring: Gerard Butler  
Running Time: 120 minutes  

Synopsis: After blowing up a secret Iranian nuclear facility, the CIA's Tom Harris (Gerard Butler) is desperate for family time but is quickly assigned a follow-up mission near the Iran - Afghanistan border. His local guide and interpreter is Mohammad Doud (Navid Negahban), who is looking for a step-sister missing in the chaos of Taliban rule. But Tom's cover is blown and along with Mohammad flees towards Kandahar, chased by Farzad (Bahador Foladi) of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Nasir (Ali Fazal) of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence. Tom's CIA colleague Roman Chalmers (Travis Fimmel) attempts to provide assistance.

What Works Well: This is a textured action thriller, filled with character definitions and drawing deep inspiration from the complex geopolitics of a dangerous global neighbourhood. Here spy agents are worth more alive than dead except when they are not, borders are porous, allegiances are bought and sold, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend is governing policy. Tom and Mohammad find themselves at the collision point of competing interests drawing in Iran, Pakistan, the Taliban, and ISIS-K, and screenwriter Mitchell LaFortune deserves credit for investing in multiple perspectives and humanizing most characters. And when it's time for the big explosions, shootouts, and chase scenes, Gerard Butler navigates the action with practiced gruffness. 

What Does Not Work As Well: Cell phones work in the middle of every Afghani desert, vehicles never run out of fuel, the cavalry arrives in the middle of nowhere but just in time (often for all sides), and these are just a few of the suspension-of-disbelief drivers. Some scenes are annoyingly obscured by a shroud of darkness.

Conclusion: Refreshingly broad in scope and immersed in motivational complexity.

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