MISSION KANDAHAR | VVS Films | May 26, 2023
Starring: Gerard Butler, Navid Negahban, Ali Fazal, Travis Fimmel, Elnaaz Norouzi
Directed By: Ric Roman Waugh
In MISSION KANDAHAR, Tom Harris (Gerard Butler), an undercover CIA operative, is stuck deep in hostile territory in Afghanistan. After his mission is exposed, he must fight his way out, alongside his Afghan translator, to an extraction point in Kandahar, all whilst avoiding elite enemy forces and foreign spies tasked with hunting them down.
REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
Mission Kandahar is an instantly forgettable action thriller that suffers from too much happening at once despite nothing really happening at all, ultimately wasting the talents of Gerard Butler who can normally make any action film entertaining.
When it comes to smaller action films, you do not need to have the most brilliant story ever. You just need a quickly paced film with entertaining action sequences, a strong lead, and enough story to get the film from set piece to set piece. Normally, Gerard Butler is the exact actor to star in these types of films, but not even Butler can salvage a truly frustrating screenplay that forgets that the purpose of the film is to merely entertain the audience.
After a mission in Afghanistan goes wrong and his cover is blown, CIA operative Tom Harris and his translator must make a perilous journey across Afghanistan to Kandahar as multiple mercenaries and foreign governments are after them, each with their own reason to ensure that neither Harris nor his translator make it out of the country alive.
The biggest obstacle in the way of this film is the screenplay. While it has the right premise for this type of action film, there is far too much going on. There are multiple different parties, government agencies and motivations at play, and it takes almost a full hour before the film gets to its first action sequence. We jump from character to character, spending a few minutes with each, making it hard to track who is who and what everyone’s motivation is for tracking down Butler’s character. It is overly complex for a simple premise, that results in too much busy work to create lots of players in the plot with very little payoff as characters are quickly tossed aside in the film’s second half to squeeze in the action sequences and wrap up the story in under two hours. Plus, the fact that the script itself has the most basic, generic lines imaginable makes this feel like the film was written by a high school student using cliches to create their first film, rather than a larger production that should have been able to come up with more interesting ways to say what it needed to say.
Unfortunately, the set pieces are not even enough to energize the film. There are few and far between, and the first major sequence occurs too late in the film and is hindered by the film’s cinematography. The set piece is drenched in darkness due to the nighttime occurrence of it, making it challenging for the audience to follow what is happening at times, removing the intensity from the entire scene. After that, we get some small action sequences, with the film putting all its efforts into the final act set piece, which is too little too late to justify the film’s almost two hour run time. Had this been a ninety minute film with a less intricate plot, the action would have done what it needed to do to create an enjoyable film, much like Butler’s Plane did earlier this year, but there is too much working against the action sequences in the film to allow them to be truly entertaining.
None of the film’s pitfalls can be blamed on Butler. As an action star, Butler knows exactly what he needs to do for this type of film, and does exactly that with his performance. He brings the brute force to the role, while providing a more personal side to his character. Sadly, with so many supporting roles, we never get to spend enough time with Butler’s Tom Harris, rendering Butler’s valiant efforts to carry the film from start to finish to little effect. As for the rest of the cast, given that we do not spend more than a few minutes with each of the characters, it’s hard to comment on the performances to say anything more than that no one stuck out as bad but also none stood out as giving a good performance.
Despite normally being a fan of these action films with Gerard Butler in the lead role, who tries his best with what he is given in this film, Mission Kandahar ultimately squanders its potential. Instead of delivering spectacle, action sequences to thrill the audience, Mission Kandahar gets tied up in an overly intricate plot for a simple premise that unnecessarily extends the film’s run time, resulting in a film that will test your patience as you wait for the action sequences that never are realized.