Actor Gerard Butler tackles international relations and war through his trademark stunts and action in the Middle East-based “Kandahar,” now in theaters.
The actor’s latest endeavor, directed by Ric Roman Waugh, casts him as a skilled CIA operative navigating the complex underground network of nuclear weapons programs in the Middle East. The region has turned into an even more lawless frontier since the hasty U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Tom Harris, a quintessentially generic Butler protagonist, serves as one of the CIA’s finest agents. As a former MI6 operative, Harris’ undercover role as a telecommunications repairman plays a vital part in the agency’s strategy to identify and dismantle underground nuclear facilities in Iran.
However, as the story goes, his unwavering dedication to his work has left his personal life in disarray. A call from his wife makes it clear that attending his daughter’s imminent graduation is non-negotiable, and he must also address the divorce papers she sent him.
Ready to pack up and be a present father, Harris’ plans change when an old CIA acquaintance requests his assistance for one final mission. Initially disinterested, he reconsiders upon learning that the three days of work could fund his daughter’s medical education. “All” he must do is cross the Afghan border, traverse Taliban-controlled territory and destroy a nuclear power plant.
Harris soon realizes that the support he anticipated is sorely lacking. While his CIA superiors in America are willing to abandon him, he negotiates passage on an MI6 plane departing for Europe the next day. Surviving the hostile environment for 30 hours and reaching the plane becomes the greatest challenge of his career.
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Penned by former special ops agent Mitchell LaFortune, the script strikes a balance between spectacle and substance, portraying global intelligence agencies collaborating to accomplish an impossible mission. Though some action sequences may leave viewers wanting more, they never detract from the film due to clever plot choices.
The release of “Kandahar” also comes on the heels of Guy Ritchie’s “The Covenant” which gives moviegoers back-to-back films with Afghanistan as the background. While “The Covenant” takes a redemptive route, “Kandahar” focuses on action with less emphasis on the relationships involved.
Some reviews claim “Kandahar” is mindful of the geopolitical thrillers inspired by Tom Clancy’s works that were once prevalent in the 1990s. If so, it should do well at the box office among those seeking a new thriller. Others claim the film is difficult to follow, a feature that while a weakness for some, shows the reality of the complex relationships and politics of the region.