‘The Covenant’ (2023) Ending, Explained: Did John Kinley Save Ahmed Abdullah? 


Guy Ritchie’s “The Covenant” is not as much a war film as it is about how only humanity can save humanity. At the center of the plot, we have two people. They belong to different countries and communities and have altogether different identities, but they still have one small thing in common: a conscience. Both of them knew that to fight evil, they had to put aside their differences and embrace the little humanity left in the world because, without it, we were nothing but flesh and blood.

“The Covenant” has a generic action movie opening where we are given a bit of background information to understand the world we are soon going to witness. After 9/11, the American government deployed its armed forces in Afghanistan in order to combat terrorism. But these military troopers didn’t understand the native language (Dari) and needed an interpreter to communicate with the locals. An interpreter played a crucial role in the American mission because Afghanistan is a vast country, and until and unless the foreign soldiers gained the confidence of the locals, they wouldn’t be able to accomplish what they had come for. But why would a local help an outsider? Firstly, most of these innocent locals were terrorized by Taliban extremists who had taken the lives of their loved ones in order to establish their terror. Secondly, most of the interpreters working with the American military were promised eligibility for special immigration visas. A war-stricken country had been reduced to ruins, and any sane or educated person would seek a way out of such atrocities. That’s how a foreign government lured these locals. But as government promises often are, most of them were never fulfilled, yet through “The Covenant,” we come to know of a man named Sergeant John Kinley who was noble enough to fulfill the promise that he and his government had made to an interpreter.

‘The Covenant’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

In March 2018, Sgt. John Kinley and his team were doing their routine checkups at a checkpoint when they stopped a suspicious truck. The ECO and the platoon’s interpreter were about to check the truck when a sudden explosion took their lives. John needed a new interpreter, and that’s how he came across a mechanic named Ahmed Abdullah, who would soon play an important role in his life.

John Kinley and his team were assigned the task of spotting Taliban munitions and explosive sites; however, their intel so far had been misleading. This is where Ahmed’s expertise comes in. Ahmed was involved in the heroin trade with the Taliban but had cut off all ties after they killed his son. As an interpreter, he wasn’t just looking for money or a special immigration visa; but probably wanted revenge for his dead son. John understood the pain of a grieving father and could trust the man in front of him without any further doubts. Ahmed, on the other hand, knew the location of all covert Taliban militants and their hideouts, which made him an important asset for the American military.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban militants were involved in making improvised explosive devices (IED) in isolated factories, and John finally got the lead on two such locations. While the first mission had to be aborted due to a snitch in the team, the second one ended in a much more tragic way. The location was 120 kilometers away from their base. John requested a couple of helicopters from his senior, Col. Vokes, but his request was instantly rejected, so John and his team were on their own. At the location, one of the Taliban militants informed their commander about the Americans which led to John and his team being ambushed by them. John had no way out but to fall back, but in doing so, he lost all his men except Ahmed. From here on, Ahmed and John were on the run while the Taliban militants were hunting them like savages. They wanted to reach their base to get out of the danger, but it was a long journey ahead.

Why Did Ahmed Abdullah Choose To Help John?

During their escape, John was ambushed by a few militants, who shot him. He was heavily wounded and had lost consciousness, but Ahmed stepped in and decided to help John Kinley because that was all the covenant was about. It is important to note here that after the ambush, Ahmed could have just run away or he could have changed his clothes and disappeared in the crowd, yet he made the decision to help a complete stranger. For a visa? Not likely. In the later part of “The Covenant,” when John meets Ahmed’s brother, Ali, he tells him about Ahmed’s son, who had beautiful blue eyes. It was a short description, but if you looked at it from a father’s perspective, it meant a lot. Ahmed probably saw the reflection of his lost son in John Kinley, and though, as a helpless father, he wasn’t able to save his son, he might have wanted to save one life that would ease his heavy heart. While the Taliban militants were looking for them everywhere, Ahmed hid John in a wooden cart and brought him near the Bagram Air Base. Near the base, some American troops found John Kinley and brought him back home. Ahmed, on the other hand, was left out in the wild with Taliban militants looking for the traitor who had betrayed his own people. Ahmed had become a hero in the eyes of some, but he had to pay a huge price for such popularity. He couldn’t live a normal life in Afghanistan from then on.

‘The Covenant’ Ending Explained: How Did John Save Ahmed? 

Three weeks later, when John finally came back to his senses, he realized that Ahmed had disappeared from the scene and was probably living in a hole. He could have tried to arrange visas for him and his family, but no one knew where Ahmed was. At this point, only John knew Ahmed’s contribution in saving his life, but for the military, he was just an “interpreter”. Thus, they weren’t bothered enough to send their men out in the wild to locate a single local person. It is important information, because at the end of the film, this fact symbolizes how hundreds of men who aided the American army were left behind in the hands of the Taliban after the first world country left the Middle East. John, on the other hand, had a huge debt to pay and tried every way possible to get a visa for Ahmed but failed miserably. He soon realized how things work in government machinery, which doesn’t discriminate between a veteran or a common man. They are going to put your phone on hold, and you cannot even lose your temper because that might bring an official complaint to your doorstep.

The thought of abandoning Ahmed and his family didn’t let John sleep peacefully. He was slowly drifting towards severe PTSD, and his helplessness was taking a toll on his mental health. He soon realized that there was no other way but to remortgage his house to hire a private security contractor named Eddie Parker to get Ahmed out of his country. However, it was a suicide mission because the minute the Taliban militants find that John Kinley was back in the country, they wouldn’t think twice before shooting him down, as his escape had made them a laughingstock among their own countrymen. But John Kinley owed his life to Ahmed, and it was a debt he was ready to pay with his own.

In Afghanistan, John was able to locate Ahmed and his family with the help of Ahmed’s brother Ali. However, on his way, he had to shoot two militants to clear the path. Another militant, Fakhrudin, spotted the truck John was hiding inside, alerted the HQ, and started following them on his senior’s orders. As soon as John arrived at Ahmed’s hiding spot, Fakhrudin recognized the two men and informed Commander Satar, after which we witnessed a horde of militants coming after John and Ahmed to settle the unfinished business.

John took Ahmed, his wife, Basira, and their three months old child to the nearest extraction point, which was Darunta Dam. While John was waiting for Parker and his extraction team, he was outnumbered by the Taliban militants. He had no ammunition left and for a moment, he had abandoned the hope of getting any help. Probably John and Ahmed had accepted that they were going to die at the hands of the Taliban. John tried again and again to connect with Parker but couldn’t make it. Meanwhile, Parker was just dusting off the big guns as he soon figured the true identity of “Ron Kay,” and thus knew a grand party would be waiting for them at the extraction point. However, for the American hero and the brave interpreter, Parker was ready to get his boots dirty.

At the end of “The Covenant,” with big guns and some fireworks, Eddie Parker was able to save the day (Homelander played Peter Parker in this universe). John Kinley, along with Ahmed Abdullah and his family, were soon airlifted and transported to Kunduz Air Base, from where they took the flight to America. Col. Vokes had already arranged a visa for Ahmed and his family, which was great, but how John arranged those visas was a bit convenient. Nevertheless, John’s determination to fulfill a promise and pay back his debts were the emotions we want to remember in Guy Ritchie’s “The Covenant,” and the film really did justice in portraying this bond between two unknown men.

Though everything ended on a happy note for Ahmed Abdullah, that wasn’t the case in real life, because as soon as the American military left Afghanistan on August 30, 2021, the Taliban took charge of the country and killed more than 300 interpreters and their families for betraying their own people, for a foreign military. The credits scene of the film shows us real-life American soldiers and their skilled interpreters, but as we can speculate, most of them met a tragic end because they either might have been dead already or were living a life in hiding the way John saw in his nightmares. Cinema does give us the power to tweak reality, but it rarely works the other way round. Being a writer or an artist, that’s the conflict we come across every day, but most of us find ourselves in John’s position. He spent his days on the phone with the visa officials and didn’t get a positive result in the end. We are all helpless in front of the power that governs us. We put our faith in the big promises made by the government, like John and Ahmed did, only to realize in the end that it was all a lie. Had John not taken matters into his own hands, Ahmed and his family would be dead too. But that’s the question we wanted to ask: how many “Johns” out there really came forward to help their interpreters? Probably some or probably none. The government was fighting terrorism, but in the end, they just came back home. The ones left behind wouldn’t be able to trust an outsider again, and we all know the reason why. Cinema does have the power to turn reality into fiction, but it’ll be better if the stories we see in movies have a positive impact in real life too.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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