Kandahar is a new action thriller film, arguably with the same mundane ideas. The plot here has CIA special agent Tom Harris and his translator Mohammed Doud having to rush through Afghan terrain in order to board their extraction airplane, all while fighting against multiple enemy factions. Gerard Butler, playing Tom Harris, seems more shaky than usual, and the film tries a number of ways to make itself serious but falters in executing them. Overall, Kandahar can be just a decent watch at best, while those not interested in the action genre can safely skip it.
‘Kandahar’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Among the various locations in the Middle East presented in the film, Kandahar opens in the Iranian city of Qom, where a group of military personnel are wary of the actions of two white men. These two, Tom Harris and Oliver Alterman, happen to be CIA operatives in the middle of a crucial mission. Tom and Oliver are disguised as workers for an internet service company, and they claim to be just laying new lines to support faster internet service. While the Iranian soldiers are still suspicious, Tom manages to slip in a device among the wires, which immediately gives a live feed and information about the entire area to a CIA control room back in the United States. Once his work is done, Tom also convinces the soldiers that all he has done is make the internet faster, before he and Oliver drive back to their safehouse.
The middle-aged Tom also goes through a tough personal life, owing to the fact that he has spent his entire life dedicated to serving his country in covert operations. His estranged wife wants a divorce from him, which Tom does agree to, but the man also genuinely wants to keep in touch with her and their teenage daughter. As he waits around in the safehouse, the CIA pulls the trigger and destroys an entire nuclear reactor that the Iranian government was running to develop nuclear weapons. Tom’s work is obviously crucial here, as it is through the device that he planted among the wires that the operation successfully takes place, wiping out the entire compound. While this large-scale destruction creates news all over the world, a journalist named Luna Cujai gathers information in Iran about how the CIA illegally carried out this operation on foreign soil.
With the mission successfully completed, Tom wants to return home to the US in time for his daughter’s graduation and spend some time with her. But then, the man’s handler, Roman, informs Tom that the next mission has already been planned and needs to be executed within a short time. After destroying the nuclear reactor in Iran, the CIA intends to wipe out a similar facility in Afghanistan to ensure that no dangerous weapons can be made there. Tom is soon sent over to Afghanistan, where he is also assigned a translator named Mohammad “Mo” Doud. However, an Iranian army colonel, Fazard Asadi, kidnaps Luna Cujai to extract information from her about the CIA operation, and although he does not get Tom’s real name, the man finds out what Tom and Oliver look like. As Oliver is tracked down and killed in Iran, Asadi begins his hunt for Tom in Afghanistan.
What Danger Do Tom And Mo Find Themselves In In Afghanistan?
As Tom and Mo reach their safehouse in the Afghan city of Herat, they start to prepare for their next mission, which is to cross back over to the Iranian side of the border in Taybad, from where they would approach the nuclear plant in Afghanistan. It is actually only Tom who does all this planning, as Mo is unaware of what is expected of him, and the handler, Roman, had only told him that his job was just to help Tom with the translations. While the two men stay undercover and prepare to begin their operation the next morning, the news of Cujai’s report and her kidnapping breaks out, and the CIA immediately understands that Tom’s cover has been blown. Roman informs the man that the mission in Afghanistan is no longer a possibility, and the only priority now is to get Tom and Mo out of the country at the earliest. It is also Roman who then requests the CIA bosses to arrange for the extraction of the two men. The British SAS was also conducting a covert operation in Afghanistan at the same time, and they were scheduled to fly out of the country in thirty hours’ time from the British base in Kandahar. Managing to secure a place for Tom and Mo aboard this plane, Roman tells Tom the final plan—he is to reach Kandahar within the next thirty hours and board the flight out of the place.
But the fact that modern-day Afghanistan under Taliban rule happens to be a hotbed of militant and intelligence units, all of whom would gladly kidnap and hold hostage a CIA agent, makes this journey to Kandahar a real tough one. It can very well be argued that Kandahar ultimately lacks any big action moment or real crisis, the motivations here—being chased by bad guys while also wanting to make it in time for the daughter’s graduation—are all quite overused by now. The film does make an effort to give the effect of real geopolitics by using the real names of factions and maintaining some level of accuracy, but this is not enough to keep the mostly basic plot afloat for long.
When the Iranians enter Afghanistan in their pursuit of Tom, they themselves are undercover as they want to avoid any tension with the Taliban. On the other side, the Pakistani ISI is also involved in the whole matter through an ISI super-agent of sorts named Kahil Nasir (played by our very own Ali Fazl). After the news of the Iranian nuclear reactor destruction and the photograph of Tom Harris went out, an ISI top official informed Nasir of Tom’s possible presence in Afghanistan and ordered him to seek the CIA agent out. ISI’s plan is to kidnap Tom before the Iranians or the Taliban and then sell the CIA operative off in the black market to whoever would pay the most money for him. Since the USA and especially the CIA are considered enemies by quite a few nations and groups in the world, the ISI’s plan does seem solid and convincing. Kahil Nasir was already in contact with and dealing with some of the Taliban factions, and the man now makes use of these local militants to track Tom and hunt him down. Therefore, as Tom and Mo frantically drive towards Kandahar, they also have to fight off the Iranian force led by Fazard Asadi, the Taliban, and the ISI side led by Kahil Nasir, while the threat of ISIS making its entry into the scene always looms large.
What Was Mo’s Real Intention Behind Returning To Afghanistan?
The translator, Mohammad Doud, is an elderly man who is first seen flying into the Afghan airport under a disguise. It is established early on that Mo was in close contact with Tom’s handler, Roman, and it is also revealed that Mo had actually asked for some favors from Roman. For a very brief moment, the film also tries to make Mo seem to have some evil intentions, but then his real identity and purpose are soon established. The man had been an Afghan national for most of his life before seeking refuge in the United States along with his wife and family. Mo’s eldest son had lost his life at a young age during a conflict in Herat, and the man had decided to leave the country at that time. Later on in the film, Tom seeks help from a Tajik warlord who works for whoever pays him the most money, and it turns out that Mo’s son had been killed in an attack orchestrated by the same warlord many years ago. Mo is terribly angry after meeting the man, but he also ultimately decides to not kill him and forgive his crimes instead.
The character of Mohammad Doud is shaped as one who brings out the real effect of warfare on the innocent citizens of any country, particularly in the Middle East. Kandahar does not shy away from commenting on how American involvement creates a lot of these troubles, as Tom himself speaks about how the system thinks so little of the normal citizens and their way of life. Mo also makes Tom realize the real worth of family and the importance of showing up as long as there is time. While Tom was already quite determined to return home and attend his daughter’s graduation, Mo’s reminder that fate can take away that chance any day, like when he lost his son, makes him all the more resolute. Along with all this, Mo’s reason for having returned to the country during such turmoil is also revealed. Since the man had sought refuge in America, he was considered a traitor by most back in Afghanistan, and therefore there was enough risk for him to return. Yet the man had come to the country after his wife’s sister went missing after the Taliban takeover. The sister had been working as a teacher in Herat and had then mysteriously disappeared, like many other working women, when there was a change of power in the country. Mo had used Roman’s help to track the woman, and in exchange, he had agreed to get involved in the translation job. At present, Mo tells Tom of this personal plan of his as well, and Tom agrees to help him out, but only after they reach some safety.
‘Kandahar’ Ending Explained: What Happens To Tom And Kahil Nasir?
When the situation gets increasingly dangerous for Tom and Mo, Roman is seen to supposedly change sides and join a group of militants carrying the ISIS flag. During this time, Tom and Mo get captured by the Taliban aids of Kahil Nasir, and they are faced with heavy interrogation and torture. There seems no way for the men to escape the camp, until suddenly the Taliban group is attacked by a convoy of ISIS armed vehicles. Roman is also seen in one of these armored cars, and then it is revealed that he had not betrayed the CIA after all. The men posing as ISIS militants were actually Afghan Special Forces soldiers, whom Roman had sought help from in order to help Tom. As the attack is orchestrated, Roman rescues Tom and Mo and then escapes from the camp, driving towards the British airfield in Kandahar.
However, the ISI agent Kahil Nasir now directly chases the men, and after spending a long duration of the film riding his bike around in the mountainous terrain, the man has now finally almost caught up to his targets. Realizing that Nasir’s car needs to be slowed down, Roman sacrifices himself after being hit by a stray bullet and jumps out of the car to create a distraction. Roman is immediately shot dead by Nasir, but he does manage to buy some more time for Tom and Mo.
In the final moments of Kandahar, Tom and Nasir face-off, and both shoot each other. While Nasir’s injury seems to be more grave, Tom also struggles to make the last distance towards the SAS airplane. To add to the urgency of the situation, Nasir had also informed the rest of the Taliban forces, and they are all now rushing towards the scene to capture Tom. However, the last call is taken by the CIA bosses, who decide to bomb the cars and ensure Tom’s safety. Tom and Mo finally reach the SAS airplane in time and are flown out of Afghanistan safely.
Kahil Nasir lies injured still, and his wish to be transferred to some Western country after this mission would perhaps remain unfulfilled, as the ISI would not treat him too kindly. On the other side, aboard the airplane, Tom promises to Mo that both of them would soon return to rescue his sister-in-law. Mo returns to his home in Baltimore, much to the relief of his wife. Tom is also greeted by his daughter at the airport, and the man surely attends her graduation a few days later. The journalist Luna Cujai is also released by the Iranian authority to return home, and it is also revealed at the end of Kandahar that the Iranian authority is now in direct contact with the ISI leader.