Dar Salim: 'Covenant' war film is about two men choosing to do the right thing

Dar Salim stars in "Guy Ritchie's The Covenant." Photo courtesy of MGM
1 of 5 | Dar Salim stars in "Guy Ritchie's The Covenant." Photo courtesy of MGM

NEW YORK, April 21 (UPI) -- Game of Thrones and Boys alum Dar Salim says he hopes his new film, Guy Ritchie's The Covenant, shines a light on the contributions that Afghan interpreters made assisting and protecting U.S.-led coalition forces during the 20-year War in Afghanistan.

Many of these interpreters were left behind when the U.S. troops departed the country in 2021, despite the promise that they and their families would be safely relocated to America.


"The military personnel, the servicemen, they try to do good and they do it for the right reason and they are all kind of heroes to put their lives at stake and their motto is, 'We leave no one behind,'" Salim told UPI in a recent phone interview.

"Around 300 interpreters lost their lives working for the coalition and for the U.S. Army, and a lot more are still in Afghanistan," Salim said. "So, if this can shed a light on that topic and this can help push in a direction for someone where some promises can be kept, that is just a wonderful bonus."


Set for release in theaters Friday, the movie is a fictionalized account of these circumstances written and directed by Snatch and The Gentleman filmmaker Guy Ritchie. It co-stars Antony Starr, Jonny Lee Miller, Emily Beecham and Alexander Ludwig.

Salim plays local interpreter Ahmed, who goes to great lengths to save the life of U.S. Army Sgt. John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) during an attack by the Taliban.

When John returns home and recovers from his injuries, he attempts to get the U.S. government to extract Ahmed, only to be told no one can find him. John then goes back to Afghanistan alone to help him.

"This is a mashup of all the stories of the interpreters and the U.S. or coalition soldiers," Salim said.

"Even though not all interpreters carried their colleagues for three weeks on a cart, all interpreters did put their lives at stake for the U.S. soldiers and all soldiers did put their lives at stake every day, trying to do the right thing."

The movie is grounded in reality, but still an entertaining action flick.

"It keeps you at the edge of your seat from the beginning until the end and, at the same time, it has all these layers at the heart of it," Salim said.


"It has this unlikely friendship between these two men from very different cultures, very different backgrounds, who out of the necessity of the situation, both choose to do the right thing. They don't even necessarily like each other in the beginning. It's not a natural friendship."

Ahmed and John may be from different worlds, but soon realize there is more that unites than separate them as human beings.

"We are always told about all the things that divide us, but, at the end of the day, we learn that it is just two guys who are family men who we can relate to and who just want to give their children a better future and better opportunity than they had themselves. That's the heart of the film, and I really loved that," Salim said.

The film emphasizes the nuances of being an interpreter as opposed to a translator.

"This is not like a Google translate program. I'm actually a human being with an understanding for this culture and background and, even though you are in charge, my job is actually also to keep us alive," Salim said of Ahmed.

"My job is to translate, my job is to interpret the situation we are in, to interpret if we can trust the people around us, if we are walking into an ambush."


Impoverished, always in danger and still grieving the death of his son at the hands of the Taliban, Salim keeps going.

"If the world around you crashes, there are two types of people: the people who crumble and the people who survive and he is a survivor out of a necessity of the circumstances of his life," Salim said.

"He's a reluctant hero. He doesn't want to be a hero. He doesn't want to do this whole long trip, but I think at the core of him, as is in most people, there is good."

The story serves as a reminder to viewers to help where they can even if it means risking their safety or comfort.

"That's the only way to do it without pointing fingers and telling someone they are wrong and you are right, just by telling a good story," he said.

"You get to step into Guy Ritchie's world and Jake Gyllenhaal's doing his thing. At the same time, just remind people it doesn't even have to be a larger-than-life situation as we have in this film," Salim added.

"Help your friend out, help your neighbor out, even though you're tired, even though you're busy. You'll feel better."


In addition to being emotionally and psychologically challenging, the role also required a lot of Salim physically.

"We had to run up and down a few mountains and Guy Ritchie kind of fell in love with this sequence of me pushing Jake around in this cart and, every day, he added a little bit to it, and Jake is a big boy, so it was physically demanding," he said.

"The more physically demanding it is, it just pushes you to do more and to get more into the character."

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