Is The Covenant Movie Based On A True Story?



  • The Covenant is not based on a true story but is inspired by the collective experiences of interpreters and soldiers in the war in Afghanistan.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, John Kinley, is not a real person but is instead inspired by real sergeants who worked with interpreters.
  • The movie highlights the unshakable bonds that developed between soldiers and interpreters and sheds light on the challenges they faced after the US military withdrew from Afghanistan.



The relationship between a soldier and their interpreter, like John Kinley and Ahmed at the center of The Covenant, is a strong and unique one, bearing a striking resemblance to the kind forged during the war in Afghanistan, and raising questions as to how closely the movie is based on a real story. The film follows Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) whose work with Afghan interpreter Ahmed (Dar Salim) takes them into dangerous situations in hostile enemy territory. When Sergeant Kinley is wounded in a skirmish with the Taliban at an IED factory, Ahmed risks his life to make sure that he gets back to the base and home safely.

After recovering, a guilt-ridden Sergeant Kinley learns that Ahmed and his family are being hunted, with any aid tied up in the bureaucracy of the US military, forcing him to take matters into his own hands. He returns to Afghanistan as a one-man army, using all of his military skills and resources in an unsanctioned rescue mission. Knowing that the United States military has gone back on its word providing Ahmed and his family a visa to escape the war-torn country, Sergeant Kinley makes a vow to honor that promise, and John Kinley and Ahmed work to protect each other at all costs in The Covenant.

Related: Every Guy Ritchie Movie, Ranked Worst To Best

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant Movie Is Not Based On A True Story

Dar Salim and Jake Gyllenhaal in a truck in Guy Ritchie's The Covenant
Dar Salim and Jake Gyllenhaal in Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

Though it’s taken from real events, The Covenant and its ending isn’t based on a true story, but rather the collective experiences of hundreds of interpreters and soldiers during the war in Afghanistan. While doing promotional work for The Covenant, Ritchie explained that he watched several documentaries about Afghanistan and was struck by the bonds forged by the interpreters and their colleagues in the American military, inspiring him to tell their story (via YouTube). Interpreters were promised visas after aiding American soldiers in Afghanistan and when the US military withdrew in 2021 after over decades of conflict, many were left behind (and remain so).

Guy Ritchie movies use action as a language to communicate a story beyond dialogue, and a war narrative, particularly one focused on the skill of interpreting a look or a micro expression, offers the perfect structure for revealing the true nature of everyone who experiences it. In this case, though it’s not based on a true story, The Covenant highlights the unshakable bonds that developed between men from very different walks of life. In order to understand the magnitude of the conflict, it has to be seen through the eyes of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice but often received no recognition.

Stream The Covenant on Amazon Prime Video

Is Jake Gyllenhaal’s John Kinley A Real Person Or Inspired By Someone?

Jake Gyllenhaal playing John Kinley looking unhappy in The Covenant

Jake Gyllenhaal’s John Kinley isn’t a real person but is instead inspired by countless real sergeants in the US military who worked with interpreters during the War in Afghanistan. Gyllenhaal took the part because of its intriguing premise involving two men with “no real bond…like an arranged marriage,” between two strangers who “are reluctantly connected all the way until the end,” after Kinley feels compelled to fulfill the “promise that one makes to the other…to go back into danger to make good for him.” (via Insider) The best Jake Gyllenhaal movies tap into his depth of emotional sincerity, so it’s not surprising to understand why Kinley’s turmoil interested him.

Dar Salim was able to tap into his parents fleeing Baghdad in the ’90s for a new life in Denmark and apply his empathy to Ahmed’s heartbreaking situation. Sympathizing with the desperation of Ahmed and his family during such a tumultuous time, he explained,“It’s not easy to flee your country when you’re in your 30s and 40s and leave everything behind.” Watching Kinley try to save Ahmed because of an unspoken debt might be a romanticized balm to the treatment of interpreters by the red tape of the US military, but The Covenant makes it feel crucial rather than revisionist, earnest rather than manipulative.

Jake Gyllenhaal Has Several Movies That Are True Stories

Jake Gyllenhaal has made a habit out of starring in movies that are true stories or ones that are realistic enough that they’ve fooled audiences into believing they’re biopics. David Fincher’s epic thriller Zodiac is about the real-life Zodiac Killer in the ’70s, and Gyllenhaal’s Robert Graysmith really was a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle. Additionally, Jarhead is a biographical war movie based on the memoir of the same name, and Gyllenhaal plays the real-life Anthony Swofford. However, despite starring in a number of biopics, the actor has also starred in several fictional movies that are extremely convincing.

In 2015, Gyllenhaal starred in Southpaw, playing Billy Hope, a boxer getting his life back after his wife was killed. While the drama feels like it’s based on real events, Southpaw is not based on a true story. Similarly, audiences believed that The Guilty was based on a true story too, as the movie features so many authentic depictions of real situations. The film follows a police detective demoted to 911 operator duty, which leads to one of the most intense days of his life. However, The Guilty isn’t based on a true story either. Instead, the 2021 movie is an American remake of the Danish film, Den Skylidge.

Source: Insider

  • Guy Ritchies the Covenant Movie Poster

    Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

    Release Date:

    Guy Ritchie

    Jake Gyllenhaal, Dar Salim, Antony Starr, Alexander Ludwig, Sean Sagar, Bobby Schofield, Emily Beecham, Jonny Lee Miller


    123 Minutes

    Action, Drama, War

    Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies

    $55 Million

    STXfilms, Toff Guy Films