Kandahar, a 2023 spy action thriller, treads familiar ground without bringing much innovation to the table. The film revolves around the survival story of CIA asset Tom Harris (played by Gerard Butler) and his Afghan translator Mohammed Doud (played by Navid Negahban) as they face the daunting challenges posed by the Taliban, Pakistan’s ISI, and Iranian authorities in Afghanistan. While the movie primarily focuses on the gripping tale of Tom and Mo’s journey from Afghanistan to Kandahar, it sidelines the high-stakes espionage and the deeper geopolitical complexities common in films set in the Middle East. However, Kandahar features a number of thrilling and heart-pounding action scenes that will definitely give viewers a rush.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Kandahar’?
In the opening scenes of Kandahar, the story unfolded in Qom, an Iranian city, where CIA asset Tom Harris and his partner Oliver, under the guise of being mechanics for an internet service company, infiltrated a nuclear reactor plant and set up a device that would allow the CIA to gather crucial data. Although the Iranian guards grew suspicious of the duo, Tom and Oliver managed to evade them after completing their task. Meanwhile, the CIA collected extensive footage of the nuclear reactor plant where the Iranian government was secretly developing nuclear bombs. With the successful transfer of Tom and Oliver to their safe house, the CIA orchestrated the explosion, resulting in the destruction of the entire nuclear reactor plant within moments. From the rooftop of the safe house, Tom Harris witnessed the dense smog, confirming the mission was accomplished. However, being a dedicated CIA agent, Tom Harris couldn’t be an ideal husband. Following a common trope found in films and series of this genre, CIA operatives are doomed to experience failed marriages. Similarly, despite the fact that Tom adored his teenage daughter and wished he could attend her graduation ceremony, his wife kept pressing him to sign the divorce papers since Tom’s obligations as a CIA agent prevented him from giving his family the time and care they needed.
After bidding farewell to Oliver, Tom headed to the airport, expecting a call from his handler, Roman. In the meantime, an Iranian reporter named Luna Cujai had gathered crucial evidence supporting the claim that the CIA was responsible for the bomb blast in Qom. As a result, the Iranian authorities, including Army Colonel Asadi, kidnapped Luna to extract information from her. Threatening Luna with harm to her daughter, Asadi forced her to divulge all the details about the explosion plan. As Luna spoke out, the Iranian government became aware of the CIA assets that had planted the device in disguise. Even worse, the media broadcast their pictures on national television. However, Asadi failed to obtain the real identities of the operatives. Armed with this information, Asadi eliminated Oliver first and then set his sights on his next target, Tom Harris.
Who Was Mohammed Doud? Why Did He Return To Afghanistan?
While Tom was filled with optimism about returning home, he received a text from Roman, inviting him to his place and assigning him a new mission similar to the one in Qom, but this time in a different location in Afghanistan. Initially hesitant, Tom was convinced by Roman, who handed him a substantial amount of cash that could be used for his daughter’s medical college admission. To assist him in Afghanistan, Tom requested an Afghan translator, and Roman introduced him to Mohammed “Mo” Doud, who had recently returned to Afghanistan from the United States. Tom met Mohammed at a desolate site, and together they embarked on their journey to Herat. During their journey, Mohammed revealed that he was born and raised in Afghanistan but had spent a long period of time living in Baltimore. He had returned to Afghanistan with the sole purpose of finding his wife’s sister, Fathemah, who had gone missing after joining a school as a teacher. However, Mohammed also carried deep trauma from the loss of his son in Afghanistan. His son had died at the hands of a Tajik Warlord Ismail, leaving Mohammed with profound grief. In the film, Mohammed represents the unnamed, innocent individuals caught in the crossfire of war, often overlooked and forgotten by the entities like the CIA that enlist their help. His character is a reflection of the traumatic experiences that many regular people who live in a war zone go through. These people aren’t often actively involved in military or political intrigue or aware of the bigger geopolitical factors at work. Instead, they become victims of war’s aftereffects, experiencing the violence and destruction that go along with it.
Despite Mohammed’s personal mission, Roman promised to help him find Fathemah in exchange for serving as Tom’s translator. However, while hiding in Herat, Tom received a call from the CIA chief informing him that his face had been exposed in the media, making him a target for the Iranian government, which had already eliminated Oliver. With this news, the operation in Afghanistan was postponed, and Tom’s primary objective became his own survival. Unaware of the situation, Mohammed, who believed his only job was to translate for Tom, suddenly found himself entangled in Tom’s dangerous circumstances and forced to run for his life alongside him.
Why Did Tom And Mo Have To Reach Kandahar? Who Was Kahil?
With Tom Harris’s cover exposed, Herat became an increasingly dangerous place for him and Mo. However, the circumstances made it unexpectedly impossible for the CIA to rescue them from their current location. In a race against time, Tom and Mo were given a strict deadline of thirty hours to reach Kandahar, coinciding with the British SAS’s covert mission’s departure from the country. The plan was for the British to secure a place for Tom and Mo on their aircraft, but the duo had to make their way to Kandahar on their own. This presented a perilous predicament, as not only was the Iranian force led by Asadi in pursuit of Tom but now the Pakistani ISI and various Taliban factions were also committed to capturing him. With news of the CIA’s involvement in the Qom bombing circulating, the ISI sought to apprehend Tom before the Iranians, aiming to sell him to the highest bidder on the black market. In response, the ISI leader summoned one of their most formidable agents, Kahil Nasir (played by Ali Fazal), to capture Tom. Kahil, known for his connections with the Taliban, utilized their assistance in his mission. He set out on a bike, following the ISI leader’s orders, to locate Tom. However, his path was soon obstructed by Iranian authorities. Employing a strategic blast, Kahil eliminated most of the Iranian pursuers and continued his journey.
‘Kandahar’ Ending Explained: How Did Asadi Die? What Happened To Roman?
Tom and Mo skillfully evaded the chaos of explosions, gunfire, and relentless attacks as they escaped from Herat. However, on a deserted island in Afghanistan, they found themselves confronted by Asadi’s approaching helicopter in the dead of night. Surprisingly, Tom single-handedly took down the entire helicopter, eliminating everyone on board, including Asadi. Seeking shelter in a nearby cave, Tom, overwhelmed with gratitude, expressed his appreciation to Mo and all the translators he had worked with in the past. He acknowledged the suffering and agonizing deaths endured by these kind-hearted individuals, who had never received a word of acknowledgement from the CIA. Despite their terror, Mo persisted in encouraging Tom, emphasizing the need to return home so that Mo could reunite with his family and Tom could embrace his daughter before it was too late. Mo mourned his failure to find Fathemah, but Tom assured him that they would come back to Afghanistan to search for his daughter once they found safety. The following morning, Tom took Mo to meet Ismail, the Tajik warlord, who seemed willing to help them escape to Kandahar. Tom had no idea that Ismail was the one who had killed Mo’s elder son. Mo felt betrayed by the unexpected encounter, but he forgave Tom, recognizing that he was unaware of the tragedy and was only planning for their safe passage.
However, Ismail proved to be an unreliable ally for Tom. Shortly after Tom’s departure, Ismail informed the Taliban of their whereabouts. While en route, the Taliban launched an attack, capturing Tom and Mo and holding them captive at their base. The CIA lost all contact with Tom and was even unable to reach Roman. However, Roman had intentionally severed communication with the CIA as he had joined the Afghan Special Forces. Under the guise of an ISIS attack, Roman orchestrated an assault on the Taliban base where Tom and Mo were imprisoned. Amidst the intense gunfire, Roman managed to rescue Tom and Mo. Meanwhile, Kahil Nasir arrived there shortly, recognized that the attack was not orchestrated by ISIS, and made the decision to track Roman’s van, carrying Tom and Mo. During their journey, as Roman attempted to engage in a shootout with Nasir, he was shot. Understanding the urgency for Tom and Mo to escape, Roman selflessly sacrificed his life during the process.
Despite their grief over Roman’s death, Tom and Mo had no time to mourn as Nasir relentlessly pursued them. Nasir, accompanied by his Taliban allies, surrounded Tom from the south and east. Nasir and Tom engaged in a face-to-face altercation, but Nasir was shot in the process. However, surrounded by enemies, Tom and Mo had resigned themselves to their fate, holding each other and bidding their final goodbyes. It was at this critical moment that the CIA chiefs made their ultimate decision. Sidestepping authority, they devised a plan to bomb those Taliban vehicles to save Tom and Mo. The massive explosion claimed the lives of the Taliban fighters, granting Tom and Mo a newfound hope for survival. They managed to reach Kandahar, where the British forces awaited them. Hurriedly boarding the plane, Tom’s mind was burdened by the losses he had suffered on the journey. The faces of Oliver and Roman lingered in both Tom and Mo’s minds, but they knew they had to move on and return home. Tom made a promise to Mo that they would return to Afghanistan to find Fathemah.
What Happened To Luna Cujai?
The film Kandahar concluded with a happy ending as both Mo and Tom successfully returned to the United States unharmed. While Tom was relieved to have made it back in time for his daughter’s graduation ceremony, Mo reunited with his family, bringing a sense of relief to his wife and younger son, who was overjoyed to see him safe and well. Asadi met his demise as a martyr, and the Iranian chief of authority conveyed the tragic news to his widow. Luna Cujai, who had been held captive, was released unharmed by the Iranian authorities, who showed no intention of causing her further harm. The conclusion of Kandahar depicted the Iranian chief of authority reaching out to the Pakistani ISI leader, hinting at the geopolitical tension between the two nations and the differing objectives they were fighting for.