Kandahar Review: Gerard Butler’s Thrilling, Cerebral Action

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Kandahar it strikes at the heart of the geopolitical and human rights issues plaguing the Middle East. The premise has an undercover operative and the translator of him trying to escape Afghanistan after his cover is blown. Different perspectives are seen as multiple factions try to capture Western spies. A complex plot overreaches with complexity and gets bogged down at multiple points. Clever action scenes, especially a spectacular nighttime helicopter chase, rescue the narrative from pauses. It is a storm of conflict told with a respectful handling of Islamic religious views.


In Iran, soldiers watch from above as a pair of contractors work feverishly to repair underground cables. Tom Harris (Gerard Butler) whispers as he secretly communicates with a CIA command center in the United States. Oliver (Tom Rhys Harries) holds off the Revolutionary Guard as they wonder what’s taking so long. Tom attaches a device that will monitor and install a virus targeted at Iranian nuclear facilities. He deflates the tension by showing a soccer game on his phone. Now everyone will have better internet.

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In Dubai, Roman (Travis Fimmel), another CIA agent, coordinates with a nervous Mohamed (Navid Negahban) as he lands at Kabul airport. It is the first time he has returned to Afghanistan after fleeing the resurgence of the Taliban. Mo is not a soldier or a spy. He accepted the mission to find his sister-in-law. He disappeared when the Taliban banned education and female teachers.


blood for treason

Kandahar film with Gerard Butler
open road movies

Tom’s Gambit proves to be a stunning success. The furious Iranian regime demands blood for such treason. Farzad (Bahador Foladi) is assigned the task of hunting down the saboteurs. His job becomes easier when the Intelligence Ministry intercepts a phone call to a British reporter (Nina Toussaint-White). Her mole at the Pentagon has revealed the identities of the agents to the global media. Roman informs Tom that they must flee immediately or risk execution. Meanwhile, in a meeting with Taliban warlords, Pakistani ISI officer Kahil (Ali Fazal) issues a stern order. The CIA will take out his team in Afghanistan. He wants them to be found and taken alive.

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Director Ric Roman Waugh (Delinquent, angel has fallen) carefully scan the gray areas. Farzad and motorcycle-riding Kahil are not painted with the same villainous brush. They are just as loyal to their respective countries and causes. Iran and Pakistan are players in the dangerous game of nuclear proliferation. They engage with the oppressive Taliban to further their own agendas.

Waugh and Butler score great points for an amazing action scene. Farzad chases Tom in a helicopter. They have an exciting cat and mouse chase in the black desert. Tom’s night vision goggles bathe the surroundings in an eerie green. The helicopter uses FLIR thermal imaging to illuminate the ground below. They get into a fierce firefight that looks amazing. Quick cuts between Tom’s airstrike and return fire will get your adrenaline pumping.

fight against extremism

The Taliban crush dissent and women’s rights under a religious Islamic banner. Mohamed and Roman are portrayed as devout Muslims. We see them praying and calling on Allah in times of crisis. They are committed to fighting extremism and the hijacking of their faith. Hollywood rarely shows such nuances. Kandahar deserves credit for being cerebral between bullets and explosions.

Kandahar is a Thunder Road Films, G-Base, MBC Studios and Capstone Global production. It will have a theatrical release on May 26 from Open Road Films.

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