For Indian viewers, Kandahar would evoke memories of the hijack episodes. For an American film, shot in Saudi Arabia passing off as Afghanistan, it just lends a dash of the exotic.
Starring Gerard Butler, playing the scruffy, glum action hero for what seems like the hundredth time, goes undercover in Iran to blow up a nuclear facility, in Ric Roman Waugh’s Kandahar. The arrogance of the Americans is such that they can cause death and destruction anywhere in the world. Because to them bearded brown Muslim men with guns are not even human
After exiting from Afghanistan, leaving it in a Taliban-controlled mess, the Amercians– read CIA– still carry out covert operations there. When Tom (Butler) is on his way home, picking duty-free shop gifts for his daughter, he is pulled in by his handler Roman (Travis Fimmel) to do one more job in Herat, Afghanistan, for loads of cash.
Tom’s cover is blown, however, and he has to escape with his translator Mohammad Doud (Navid Negahban), to make his way across the desert to the extraction point in Kandahar. The Iranians want to capture him for obvious reasons, but there is a Pakistani ISI agent Kahil Nasir (zipping around on motorbike, hoping to catch and sell Tom to the highest bidder. As a character says, present-day Afghanistan is teeming with spies, like Cold War era Berlin. Incidentally, Kahil gets to take off his helmet and glare into the middle distance several times, like a macho model for leather jackets, aftershave or cigarettes. Good to see an Indian actor in a major role. The film also casts other Irani or Arab actors in an admirable show of inclusivity.
The 400 miles to Kandahar is fraught with danger and a lot of briskly shot action sequences are laid out every few miles. However, like the progressive dialogue-spouting Kahil, who is sick of the desert, the film has one ambush too many with jeeps kicking up clouds of sand.
Overlook the jingoism and the white male superiority that dictates that the brown man will have to change a punctured tyre, Kandahar is a slick actioner in which the hero is shot at, bombed and beaten, but comes out none the worse for the wear.
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh
Cast: Gerard Butler, Elnaaz Norouzi, Travis Fimmel, Ali Fazal and others
On Amazon Prime Video