Kandahar is an American action film released in 2023, directed by Ric Roman Waugh and written by Mitchell LaFortune. The film showcases Gerard Butler as the lead actor and producer. The supporting cast includes talented actors Ali Fazal, Navid Negahban, Bahador Foladi, Nina Toussaint-White, Tom Rhys Harries, Vassilis Koukalani, Mark Arnold, Corey Johnson, and Travis Fimmel.
Kandahar is an action film set in Afghanistan, revolving around an undercover CIA operative who becomes stranded in hostile territory after his mission is compromised. Accompanied by a translator, he embarks on a perilous journey to reach an extraction point in Kandahar while facing enemy combatants along the way.
The film presents a straightforward narrative, yet its multiple subplots lack emotional depth and resolution, leaving them seemingly unresolved for potential future installments. Attempting to weave themes of war futility, extremist indoctrination of children, and women’s rights into the storyline, the movie fails to effectively explore or do justice to any of these significant subjects due to the disjointed nature of the subplots.
Both the trailer and the movie emphasize the urgency of covering 400 miles within 30 hours, with a specific focus on the threats lying in between. However, the film fails to maintain consistent tension, as the protagonist manages to overcome the majority of the distance with ease and minimal obstacles, diminishing the impact of the stated danger.
In comparison to the director’s previous work, “Plane,” where the plot was intense and captivated audiences with the protagonist’s struggle for survival, “Kandahar” lacks sufficient action and relies on contrived situations to foster a bond between the characters Tom and Mo.
Several events in the movie appear overly coincidental, raising doubts about their believability. For instance, the ease with which Tom evades capture in the film’s opening scenes, despite having previously attracted the suspicion of local authorities, feels inadequately explained. Conversely, crucial plot points regarding the leak of secret documents are excessively highlighted and delivered with heavy-handedness.
Characters and Performances
Gerard Butler delivers a commendable performance as the freelance undercover operative working for the CIA. However, it must be noted that he has showcased stronger performances in previous projects with similar premises, such as his role in the film, Plane (2023).
Navid Negahban’s portrayal of Mohammad “Mo” Doud is a standout, impressively conveying the emotions of a grieving father who has lost his son in an attack by a warlord. Mo’s profound appreciation for family values adds depth to his character. The interactions between Tom and Mo are the film’s strongest point, as they engage in introspection and contemplation of their actions. Tom’s candid confession to Mo regarding the imposition of Western cultural norms on the locals who risk their lives adds a layer of complexity to their relationship.
Ali Fazal exudes confidence and effectively portrays the enigmatic motorbike rider with a mission. While his character holds promise as a strategic and efficient Pakistani agent, the film does not fully capitalize on this potential. Instead of witnessing him in action, the majority of his role revolves around chasing after the protagonist, Tom Harris. This underutilization of his abilities is a missed opportunity in the storytelling.
Elnaaz Norouzi makes a brief appearance as Shina Asadi, the wife of Farzad Asadi portrayed by Bahador Foladi. Unfortunately, her character’s inclusion feels unnecessary, adding little to the overall narrative.
In conclusion, “Kandahar” attempts to deliver an action-packed narrative set in Afghanistan, revolving around a stranded CIA operative’s journey to safety with the help of a translator. While the film introduces several significant themes, such as war futility and extremist indoctrination, it falls short in exploring them deeply due to disjointed subplots.
The lack of consistent tension and contrived situations diminish the impact of the stated danger, making it less compelling than the director’s previous work. Despite commendable performances by Gerard Butler and Navid Negahban, the underutilization of certain characters and the inclusion of unnecessary ones hinder the overall storytelling experience.
In the end, “Kandahar” struggles to fully realize its potential and leaves unresolved threads that may have been intended for potential future installments.