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WGA Goes on Strike. What’s at Stake? Plus: Guy Ritchie’s ‘The Covenant,’ reviewed!

May 2, 2023
Notes
Transcript
Before we get started, wanted to share a cool little thing I learned literally yesterday. Typically at a movie theater—or, at least, the movie theaters I’ve been to—the handicapped seats are just empty spots where you can fit a wheelchair. At the Crystal City Alamo Drafthouse, they’re actual chairs that can be taken out to provide a space for wheelchairs. There’s a cool little animation on the site and everything. I bring this up because there are only 11 seats left for Across the Movie Aisle’s live show on May 16th (two weeks from today!) and they’re almost all in that handicapped row. I think it’s okay for the non-wheelchaired to pick them up at this point, given that it’s basically a sell-out show? 

On this week’s episode, Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman (Reason) talk about the WGA strike. Why are writers hitting the picket line? What don’t studios want to give up? What will the industry look like after this work stoppage? All that and more during this discussion. (Full disclosure: we taped this Monday afternoon, more or less assuming that the strike would happen.) Then we reviewed Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, an almost shockingly earnest war movie from the king of Brit-gangster movies. 

We’ll talk more Guy Ritchie on the bonus episode this week. And speaking of bonus episodes: last Friday’s got lost in the shuffle, so we just posted it this morning. You can listen here if you’re a paid-up member of Bulwark+. And if you aren’t, you should be!

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:11

    Welcome back to across the movie out presented by Bulwark Plus. I am your host, Sunny Bunch, Culture Editor of The Bulwark. I’m joined as always by list Rosemer The Washington Post and Peter Soudreaux of Reason magazine. Alyssa Peter, how are you today?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:22

    I’m Spiffy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:23

    I am happy to be talking about movies with friends.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:27

    Before we get started, just wanted to remind folks, there are still a handful of tickets available for the ATMA live show on Tuesday, May sixteenth at seven thirty PM at the Crystal City Alamo Drive House. And one thing I learned literally today, I was poking around on their site before the show. The handicap seats. So most of the seats that are left are in the handicap row. And usually, when you go to a movie theater, the handicap seats are like kind of just empty spaces.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:53

    The wheelchairs go into. But it turns out they’re actually fully removable seats at this Draught House. They they have like this cool little animation and everything. Meaning that if you aren’t handicapped, you still want to sit there, you can. And while I would never recommend buying a handicap seat, if you aren’t actually handicapped, unless the rest of the theater is sold out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:10

    The rest of the theater is pretty much sold out. Last night check, there were two seats left in the very front row as of Monday afternoon. So I don’t know how about them. There’s like eleven seats left. So hopefully, we sell it out this week.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:21

    I’d like to sell it out this week. I I hate having to tell people to go see it, but go go check it out. Alright. Now on two, controversies and controversies. Hollywood is getting ready to stop getting ready.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:33

    It’s a WGA strike looming. As negotiations continue, the clock is running out. By the time this episode goes live, the WGA may have already struck a deal. Or may not have struck a deal. We’re kinda playing with fire here where it’s entirely possible this whole segment will be out of date by the time you listen to it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:50

    But we’ll do our best to fill you in on the states. Regardless of what actually happens. Why are the writers headed toward the first major work stoppage in Hollywood in fifteen years or so? Long and short of it, streaming. On one hand, you think that the world is streaming and peak TV would be great for writers and it is kinda.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:06

    There are more shows needing more writers than ever before. But the problem is that streamers tend to order fewer episodes and writers are paid by the episode. They tend to hire smaller writer’s rooms, these so called mini rooms that hire fewer writers per show total. And those writers get tied into a project for longer than before reducing the number of projects that they can work on at a time, making it kind of harder to go from thing to thing. And finally, streaming means the death of residuals, at least in the lucrative sense that residuals used to mean.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:34

    Right? Tens of thousands of dollars for network reruns. Money when the show hits syndication, etcetera, etcetera, that money is pretty much all gone. So basically, there are more writers but they’re making less than before and the security in between jobs that residuals provided have more or less disappeared. As Richard Rushfield likes to put it, it’s It’s harder than ever to make a middle class life in Los Angeles Bulwark.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:56

    If you are a writer, particularly when the middle class in the film industry is let’s just say, higher than the middle class elsewhere in the country. The long and the short of it is that it’s the long and the short of basically every labor action in history. Right? The writers would like to be paid a bit more and work a bit less. The counterpoint from the studios is pretty simple.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:18

    We’re hemorrhaging cash. We are losing lots of money on streaming all the time. All the time, we’re losing money on streaming. We cannot afford to debate you anymore. Which not not unreasonable either.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:28

    I mean, again, the streaming not exactly profitable yet depending on where you’re working, but we’ll, you know, we’ll see what happens. I’ll be honest when I first saw the list of WGA asks, I thought that the studios and the writers should be able to work something out, mostly because of what the WGA was not asking for, and that was radical transparency. So because they aren’t asking for network TV like residuals, because such a thing isn’t even really possible in the world of streaming with its endless mod and its variable time slots, there wasn’t a need to gain access to all of the data the streamers had amassed. And with which they are loathed apart. Yet, it still looks like a strike’s gonna happen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:06

    I mean, I again, this could be entirely out of date. By tomorrow at this time when you’re listening to it. But we’ll see. So what happens during a strike? Well, first immediate effect is that late night shows will shut down.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:17

    Studios won’t be able to ask for rewrites on screenplays, meaning that whatever they have in hand is what will get shot regardless of how good or how bad. It is. The streamers and the studios are gonna work through their backlog for a bit, and then we’re gonna hit a content crutch if this continues on for more than a month or two. You’re gonna see more reality programming. That’s gonna be the first thing that gets produced more of them, you know, we’ll we’ll go from there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:40

    My card’s on the table, my how I feel about all this. I am generally a pro capital and any dispute between labor and capital. I take the side of the money class. That’s that’s how I roll. But but this time, I’m actually I’m more so authentic to the writers, honestly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:52

    The system that has been created is essentially unsustainable, especially for a lower entry level writers. And a more sustainable system could be created that produces a little bit less content, hires more writers per show, plays them a little bit better, and offers some rewards for bigger hits. The system that emerges if it looks like this would likely be one with fewer riders total. But would pay the ones who remained well enough to, you know, maybe one day buy a house in LA. That’s like an hour away from the studios.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:23

    Maybe. Yeah. You know, fingers crossed. No promises. Alyssa, you’re a union member, I believe.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:28

    Are you — Yes. — are you are you going pens down in solidarity with the WGA? Are you are you you’re not gonna right either? Or is the issue?
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:36

    Well, that’s that’s not quite how that’s not how unions work. Like, if one union went on strike and all
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:42

    General secretary of the world,
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:44

    Yes. This is not a general strike. Although, I am a member of the Washington Post Guild, and we are in the middle of negotiations of our own contract right now. And things have gotten a little bit a little bit touchy there as well. But, yeah, look, I mean, the main thing about the WGA is that the economic situation that the studios are saying mean that they can’t pay writers more money are ones that they created themselves.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:09

    Right? I mean, I have said over and over again on this podcast in my comments post. You know, any soapbox that would have me for a moment. It’s like, I am just a simple idiot, but I don’t understand why Hollywood decided to gut all of its multiple revenue streams and strip itself down to a single revenue stream or like two revenue streams. That it gets to keep in house, but that clearly is less profitable than its prior sort of multi stream business model was.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:43

    And so, like, having the studios cry poor because their executives, you know, chased Wall Street’s demand for every company to be Netflix is not terribly sympathetic to me. Right? Like, if you throw out your entire business model, So, you know, you can drive your stock price up regardless of whether Wall Street knows anything about the fundamentals of your business and you can get more bonuses and stock buybacks or whatever it is that capital is like to do and they’re on a roll with Wall Street. But then you’re like, oh, the people who come with our with our ideas. E.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:16

    Sorry. Like, I’m just it’s a really unsympathetic position for the studios to be in, I think.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:22

    Alright. I I I mostly agree with that again. But this is a content to boom that has created more jobs. I mean, look, this is there are more writers who are out there making shows And I I don’t know that it is sustainable to have all of those writers all making more money. I don’t know that that makes any sense.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:41

    As much as anything in the film in TV industry makes sense. Peter,
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:46

    what what do you make of this? So, you know, I I also am a a a tool of big capital. Right? And, like, I I tend to side with management, you know, and, like, Sonny here. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:56

    I mean, because you’re the boss, Sonny. So I I just side with you. That’s how
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:59

    it’s actually worth it. Perfect. That’s alright. But
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:01

    I’m somewhat more sympathetic to the writers here. Well so let me start by saying, why I’m a little more sympathetic to the writers than in many sort of union disputes here. The way that negotiations work in Hollywood and the way that the relationship between the studios and the writers work, it seems pretty clear to me that the studios have in mind that they are going to pull whatever they can on most writers with the exception of a very small number of superstars. They are just going to squeeze them unless there are union negotiations that prevent them from doing that, unless there are contractual obligations done through the union. And it just seems to me that Hollywood operates, especially big money Hollywood.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:46

    I’m not necessarily talking about every little indie production, but the big studios, big money Hollywood operates on such a a principle of you try to get away with whatever you can, with whoever you are negotiating with. Unless a a labor contract prohibits you from doing that. And you see that to some extent with the way the world of affects production. Has been going where the effects people are not unionized. And they are getting squeezed in some cases doing work that you would think would be Like, maybe not super high paying get rich work, but steady college, you know, level like six figure, like professional work on big projects.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:27

    And they are making the equivalent of something like twenty dollars an hour. Right? Like the kind of money that you make, you know, selling chips and beer at the local corner store in Washington DC. And that’s That’s just sort of a function of the way Hollywood negotiates, I think, in some cases. Writeers, that’s obviously not the case.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:43

    The average WGA member who’s working makes something like two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year. And so, you know, it’s not like they are being sent to the boar house if they are working on the other hand. And I should also say, that’s two hundred thousand dollars before all of the fees and all the stuff they’re gonna pay their agents and all this other stuff. So, you know, it’s just that’s a comfortable living and basic anywhere. It’s but in Los Angeles is expensive.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:03

    And that’s also the people who are working and many of them are not working or they work very very erratically. Right. But
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:09

    I mean, these are not yeah. I think we should just mention it. Like, these are not jobs in the way we understand them. Yes. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:15

    Like, it’s not like, you know, you go work for Warner Bros. And they pay you two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year guaranteed and, like, task you to a project. This is if you in a year when you sell a project or get staffed on a show or are doing contracted rewrite on a script or something. And so you know, talking in terms of, you know, these writers are making two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year. I mean, like, how many years do you have to stretch that over?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:40

    I mean, in front of the podcast, Zack Stance wrote in the New York Times this week about, you know, the extent to which he had to sort of stretch his salary over multiple years and Again, it’s one thing to do that if, you know, work is gonna be very predictable and you can say, okay, I have to make this two hundred and fifty thousand dollars last eighteen months, and I know for that there’s another paycheck at the end of that. But, you know, this is like being, like, high end driving for Uber to a certain extent.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:05

    So I would say, there are reasons why a a union negotiation might be the way that writers negotiate. Right? Like, for for money, like, in this circumstance, it’s not obvious that most writers have a lot of other options. But that said, I do think that like, it’s my responsibility on this podcast to say, there are gonna be some costs to this. And one of those costs is that that I worry about is frankly that there will be that there will be costs to some types of of creativity because what Union demands end up doing is sort of enforcing standardization on projects.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:43

    And so one of the things that people that the writers have complained about are these so called mini rooms. Right, these these writers rooms that are done sort of with very small skeleton staff. Right? In some cases, just one person as a writer on staff. And I can see how that would be quite stressful in some cases.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:01

    Right? Like there are certain there are times when obviously that’s because the production whoever’s paying for it, it has decided, well, look, we’re only gonna pay one writer for this stretch of the preproduction or or whatever. And, like, in normal cases, you might have other people. On the other hand, something like the white Lotus, I believe, is written. I’m nearly certain.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:20

    I don’t have the credits in front of me, but that the creator Mike White has basically written every script himself or at least for the first season. And that, like, that show is extremely distinctive because of one person. It’s not obvious to me. That that sort of one person visionary model would really be allowed. Or if it is allowed, they’d sort of have do some sort of pro form a hiring of two other writers just to, like, get these sort of, say, oh, we’ve got other writers on staff.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:46

    And is that the sort of outcome that we want from these negotiations? The other thing that I would that I would just say here is that everybody all of the working writers, I should say, not everybody, but all of the working writers who are basically realistic are looking at these negotiations and saying, well, the best possible outcome is still a smaller number of writers, a smaller number of people who are able to make a living, and that life will be better for that smaller number of people. But what that means is that in some sense, having writers cost more is going to create more of a barrier to getting into the business. And it’s gonna mean that the people who might be willing to work for less and who who might not have records. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:32

    Who might not be not just not superstars, but might be, like, just starting out, just not have any not have any credits, not have any experience, that’s gonna make it a harder lift for them to get into the business. And this is something that that Zack Stentz who is a union member who is in favor of the, you know, of who voted to to authorize the strike. Right? Like, says at the end of his piece, you know, that he worries that some younger writers don’t understand that, like, the brutal reality, he says, the brutal reality remains that going forward, there were will likely be fewer well paying jobs in a volatile industry that may force us to hustle for more work than ever. And this is also something that Rob Long says in his interesting piece for the Angler about this.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:15

    So Rob Long, if you don’t know who he is, is like a longtime producer writer guy in the Hollywood world who is also an outspoken conservative. Very rare. He is a a regular where I say I guess I should say an infrequent contributor a national review over the years. Right? Somebody who is, like, known as a conservative.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:32

    And he wrote about how he voted to authorize the strike. So he’s on the side of the the writer’s union. But he also wrote about how, in his words, it’s likely that what emerges is a smaller landscape of Hollywood product. Fewer streaming services, fewer writers working, fewer and smaller and less in exchange, but maybe a business that’s a little more livable for people creating the product. And so again, like I said, I’m much more sympathetic to the union here than I am in many cases.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:00

    But I do think that it’s worth recognizing that there’s likely to be some sort of cost in terms of volume of output and in terms of making it harder for new writers to get started and to find, you know, to find those first jobs they don’t have any credits and they don’t have any, you know, they don’t have any work that they can show, and they might be the sort of person that you would bring on at a very low rate. In a different world.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:22

    Alright. But, Alyssa, isn’t this isn’t this like kind of the best of all worlds for us, the critics? I mean, haven’t we been calling for less stuff like, less content, fewer streaming options, but, you know, maybe better, but at the very least just less.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:34

    Yeah. But I wanna push back on Peter’s cause out for a minute Right? Because the idea that the world of content was gonna shrink some is not necessarily due to what writers get paid. Right? I mean, we have talked about the sort of unsustainability of the number of streaming services, the likelihood of consolidation, what a higher interest rate environment does to these companies that are on just insane debt binges.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:02

    And so the idea that you know, the what writers get paid is gonna be the ultimate make rubric thing in an industry that seems obviously bound for concentration. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. And so, you know, we can chicken and egg it all we want. But, I mean, I think it is likely that an industry that is overexpanded radically as, you know, John Lambraff has been tracking the sort of what he called peak TV for a long time is suggested. And there will be an inevitable contraction.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:31

    And I think it would be a good thing if the people who are left standing after that contraction don’t continue to be financially abused by the companies and the corporate leaders who screwed up their business model in the first place.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:43

    There is a domino effect here. Right? Which is that if if if the studios sign off on big raises for the writers, then they’re also gonna have to do it for the screen actors who have their own contract negotiations coming up and for directors who have their own contract negotiations coming up. Like, there’s a there’s a sequence of things that are gonna happen here if the writers do make radically more money. I mean, I agree that it’s not like nobody is like, well, Warner Brothers is gonna go under if they have to pay an extra, you know, ten thousand dollars in episode for completed scripts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:15

    Right? I don’t think I don’t think anybody is necessarily suggesting that. But, you know, look, the reality on the ground is what it is. The economics of the business do not really work right now. And it’s not let’s not blame the studios entirely for this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:30

    I mean, you know you know what people want? People want cheap content. People don’t wanna pay what the actual market rate for streaming service like HBO Max is or or whatever. And and there is going to have to be some equilibrium there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:45

    Yeah. No. I think that’s not wrong. But I just don’t think like the writers themselves are the people who are gonna break the industry. And look, writers don’t have the kind of upside potential.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:56

    Like, There is no world in which any writer gets Robert Daddy Junior’s payday. Correct.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:01

    That’s just not true though. Look at look at Ryan Murphy. At Netflix. Right? These Shonda Rhimes deals.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:06

    Like, there are so this is one thing that we haven’t really discussed. That’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:09

    not a pure writing deal, though. Right? I mean, like, that deal is getting handed out to someone who produces who’s essentially bringing their company under the banner of Netflix. I
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:19

    mean, one thing we have not discussed here is the difference between median and mean. Right? So, like, the the average salary that that writers working writers are making has actually crept up a little bit over the last few years here. You can see it in the WGA numbers. But the problem is that that could skewed pretty heavily by, like, a fifty million dollar deal here there, a fifty million dollar deal there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:42

    You know, like I don’t know. It’s it’s just it’s a weird industry. It’s a weird industry where you have these, like, very small handful of enormous superstars and then a bunch of people just kind of scraping by. Like a six six or eight episode season of some Netflix comedy or drama somewhere.
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:00

    I would say that almost any one in who is writing television, who is regularly working, is doing okay. Probably not rich in many cases, in most cases. But is doing okay. The problem is that work is irregular, and it’s inconsistent. And that’s where what looks like a lot of money I mean, even for a six episode season, like, Like, if you’re doing a certainly, if you’re doing one of those every year, like, you are not a poor person by any standard.
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:26

    By allies. At the same time, you sign up to do a six episode season and you don’t know what’s gonna come after that. You don’t know if there’s not if there’s gonna be another six episode season. The following year, or of the next time you get six episodes will be three years from now. And that I that sort of inconsistency is, you know, it’s it’s different from salaried writer’s drops.
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:44

    Like I said, I’m I’m somewhat sympathetic here, and I just think that that part of the issue is that the way Hollywood is set up is that negotiations happen via the bargaining unit. And, like, Sonny, you and I are, you know, on the the side of management a lot of the time, and we might think, like, that’s not ideal, but that is how things are. And so, you know, I I guess my my concern here is that I want to see whatever the outcome it happens here, I wanna see one that does not place creative constraints on what can be made. And so pay writers, whatever it is, like, work this out, but I don’t wanna see a a system that sort of that says, oh, you’ve gotta have a certain number of people there just like standing around when what we want is a is a one person, one vision show, or or for production. And that’s the concern that I have is is creative constraints that might end up being put in this because that does sometimes happen as a a way to sort of ensure, you know, what some people might call fair working conditions.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:43

    Peter, I’m just saying you should join me in forming me across the movie aisle. You get in the part of him, you know, too. Funny we demand raises to account for inflation. You
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:52

    know, our work is valuable. I mean, this brings us to another problem, which is that stuff just gets shut down when costs go too high. You know, I don’t wanna make any threats here. But I so a slightly different exit question than usual because it’s not really a controversy or a controversy, I guess. So who is more to blame for a strike if it happens in I don’t like, again, like, eight hours, ten twelve hours, we should know something I don’t know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:18

    Peter. I think it’s Sunny bunch. I had nothing to do with this. I don’t run a studio. I’m not even in the guild.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:24

    I don’t know. Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:25

    But I’ve read the Internet. It’s all your fault. Well, that’s I mean, that’s probably
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:28

    true, Alyssa.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:30

    Studios. And if you can join your union, you should. You get a lot of protections. You know, Union’s rock. Mhmm.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:39

    I don’t know. I mean, I I I think it’s probably the studios, but I’ll I’ll blame Netflix more than any anybody. I think Netflix has has really screwed the industry in a lot of ways. And one of them is this push to streaming, which
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:53

    as
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:54

    I’ve said a hundred times, should have been a replacement for DVD revenue and not all of the revenue, but whatever. It’s a newer neither here nor there. Alright. Make sure to swing by a board plus for a bonus episode on Guy Ritchie this Friday. He’s one of our most versatile big name directors and we’re talking about Guy Richey because we’re under the main event, which is the covenant.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:16

    It’s Guy Richey’s African wardrobe. It’s actually called guy ritchie’s the I can’t tell if it’s called the guy ritchie’s the covenant. I’ve seen I’ve seen both styles here guy ritchie’s the covenant. Or, like, just guy Ritchie’s the covenant. It’s it’s hard for me to say.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:30

    Anyway, it’s guy Ritchie’s either way. Guy Ritchie presents a guy Ritchie production, the covenant. Alright. So guy Ritchie’s Afghan war drama about staff sergeant John Kinley, who’s played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and his that is Kinley’s effort to protect and extract his interpreter, Ahmed, who’s played by Darceline, from that country following Ocwen’s extraordinary effort to save Kinley’s life. The covenant is kind of fascinating in how it’s structured.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:58

    Because it’s it’s a movie that’s being pitched to audiences as Jake Hill and I’ll going back to Afghanistan. He’s gonna rescue this guy. That’s the heart of the movie. I think this guy saved him. He’s gotta go back there and and rescue him from Afghanistan from the Taliban.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:11

    But that’s really only, like, the last twenty five minutes. Or so of this film, we spend roughly the same amount of time watching Ahmed Drag Kinley a hundred clicks to BOGRAM airbase, and then we see roughly again the same amount of time watching Kimberly like futilely attempt to navigate the bureaucracy of the US customs and immigration services as he’s trying to get his guy out by the book. Before the tallow man can cut his hat off because that’s what they like to do to people. Cut cut off the heads. The pacing is both deliberate and surprisingly quick.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:40

    Every scene conveys information. We linger in each set up just kind of long enough to feel the hook set in Kimberly’s chest, this debt. That has been incurred that he cannot rest while it still is on his head. It’s just a really well scripted movie. Covenant is interesting because it is about one of the more shameful aspects of America’s time in Afghanistan are abandonment of in country allies who were promised exit visas in exchange for their life threatening Bulwark.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:08

    But it is not about the thousands who are left behind to their fate or the hundreds who have already been killed. By the Taliban, it is rather about one of the rare success stories and they do exist. This is a thing where guys who work with interpreters, you know, spend their own money to go in country with with private contractors and get guys out. One of our freelancers at the Bulwark has written about it. It’s an interesting thing, but it’s it’s it’s rare.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:33

    It’s a rare, rare thing. And America’s failure in this regard is kind of relegated to title card at the end of the movie and forming audiences, about the thousands who remain left behind. As I said in my review, the whole movie feels a little bit like Rambo first blood part two, which is a movie that came out ten years or so after Vietnam and asked the question, do we get to win this time? You know, Stanley Cuprick had kind of a simpler thought about Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s list, which is a it’s a little dishonest to make a movie about the hundreds who lived in the Holocaust rather than the millions who died. It’s it’s just a weird thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:07

    And this movie is a little bit is a little bit weird in that regard. It’s not the covenant’s fault. I don’t blame the filmmakers for wanting to do something a little less downbeat than, well, this guy’s gonna die. But it is worth keeping in mind the reality on the ground as you enjoy this picture. If you go see it, which I recommend you do because it’s pretty good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:26

    Alyssa, what did you make of the covenant?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:28

    I liked this a lot more than I expected. I would in part because it’s wool to us in the bonus episode. I’m not as into guy Ritchie as you guys are. But it actually reminds me of the j joon Hong movie end of watch help both of you watch that? It’s a June twelve movie made with David Iyer where he and Michael Peña play street cops who are partners in LA and a lot of it is them, you know, just sort of driving around and talking to each other.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:56

    But it builds to a really sort of searing ending about an unpayable debt. And Jillen Hall’s very good in both of these movies. I actually had a slightly different reaction than you to the ending, which I wanna discuss, you know, before we get back to some other fundamental things about the movie. Because for me knowing how rare the story was lent the whole movie sort of an era of dread. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:22

    It’s like, the knowledge that you have going in, I I think most people have on some level a sense that, like, there are a lot of people we did not get out of Afghanistan when we pulled out. And that has been, you know, real stain, a source of ongoing moral injury, And so it lent this sort of sickening tension to the movie, to me at least. And, you know, you have this moment at the end where the last shot in the movie is, you know, John Kenny, like leaning his head back in the plane that’s flying him and Amit’s family out of Afghanistan. And it’s sort of the, you know, the rest of an exhausted person, but it’s not a particularly triumphal moment. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:05

    I mean, it’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:06

    it’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:06

    sort of someone who stumbled over the finish line. And I felt like the ending landed better for me, maybe than it did for you. I also wanna talk about the performance by Darcelim who plays on the the translator, which I think is I think he is terrific. There is a scene sort of towards the middle of the movie when, you know, Kinley and Ahmed are the last survivors of a mission to take out a a Taliban munitions operation that turns into an ambush. And they’ve gotten away.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:39

    They’ve, you know, so they’re taken a breather after running for a while. And Kimberly started taking this moment to feel the loss of men, some of whom he served with for a long time. And Ahmed has also obviously affected by adrenaline, by the deaths, and neither of them managed us to say anything. Their faces both just sort of work, and Richie spent some time just being like, I’m gonna look at Kinley for a minute. We’re gonna look at Ahmed, for a minute, we’re gonna look back.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:04

    And, you know, just watching both men sort of act with their faces and with no lines at all. He gets something really moving and interesting and compelling out of both of them in that moment. And I get a little hung up on Richie’s direction of dialogue. Right? Even in a more naturalistic movie like this, it’s still fairly mannered.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:26

    Everything is like a line. But he clearly has a nice faculty with actors that you can see here. And, you know, it’s like, Salim does a great job. Right? I mean, Peter and I, we’re sort of sort of walking out of the screening.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:40

    We’re trying to sort of rank Jillian halls. Like, probably not a top five leading man, definitely like a top twenty five. And this is a movie that only works. If the person he’s playing opposite with is as good as him. And, you know, it’s just it’s exciting to see an actor who hasn’t had a big, you know, American role that I know of.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:57

    I need to, like, look through his I m d d page a little bit more, have this kind of showcase and do just like such terrific work. It’s it’s really wonderful. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:05

    On one of my other podcasts, we were talking about Jake Gyllenhaal and, like, where where would you where would you rank him exactly in the because he’s not as sort of guy who comes to mind, he he I I feel like he’d be very few people’s first choices like great American actor of the last twenty years, but he has turned in a series of really interesting, really good performances across a variety of genres and has kind of grown I like, it it’s just very interesting to think about how he has grown from, like, the disaffected suburban kid with his petulant you know, oh, the world is oh, the world is bad and against me attitude in Donnie Darko to this, you know, twenty some years later, where he is, like, avatar of American might in a very very real way. It’s it’s just interesting. Peter, what did you make of this movie?
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:58

    I’ll just talk about Gillen Hoff a little bit because he’s he’s in such an interesting moment in his career. So he’s come out of the sort of, like, indie weirdo scene. Right? He’s playing oddballs, you know, in Donnie Darko, in Zodiac. But he has since become a kind of icon of a a particular sort of tortured masculinity, like just in the last couple of years and he has become used by directors who are interested in that in the, like, since the pandemic.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:26

    So since movies shut down in early twenty twenty. He’s been in Antoine Fuqua’s Pandemic Film, The GILTI, where, right, it was nearly a one man show in which Like, it’s just chillin’ haul kind of being agitated at the camera and holding your attention for ninety minutes. You followed that up with a leading role in Michael Bay’s ambulance, which, you know, it’s a Michael Bay movie and it’s silly in certain ways and over the top and all that, but it’s also there’s a kind of desperation to that role that Jill and Hall grounds in. I don’t know if I would’ve call it something realistic, but something that is deeply felt. And that actually that seems to go further than you would have to in a role like that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:08

    And then here he is in the covenant, which is which is a kind of anguished film, and which is a a movie that has like a a real anger and pain running through it in a way that is just very interesting because that’s kind of new for gay richie, not new in this film. But knew later in his career. And in particular, if you think about this movie and and wrath of man, both of those these movies are dark. They seem to have a kind of coiled anger. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:43

    Inside them, they seem to be about a kind of masculinity and and a sort of older male lashing out at the world that with the kind of power that you get by being in in middle age. Right? In a way that you might not have expected from the guy who made lock stock into smoking barrels and snatch, both of which were fundamentally kind of light and breezy movies even if they had a a moments of of real darkness to them. And the guy, Ritchie, Jake Gyllenhaal collaboration here, makes a ton of sense and just works really well because Guy Ritchie is in a is in a new place as a filmmaker right now. And I don’t know why that is.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:26

    I haven’t read any interviews with him to sort of see what either if he has explained this, But he is in a new place as a filmmaker, and Jake Gyllenhaal has also evolved into this into an actor who in which these these directors who are very concerned with, like, what does it what does it mean to be a man right now? He’s just such an interesting sort of action figure for them to use and for them to, like, look at Like, the the kind of strange soulfulness on his face that you don’t get from a lot of his male contemporaries, I’m very curious to see what he does in Roadhouse because he’s he’s gonna be playing the Patrick’s Wazy role in a remake of Roadhouse. And, like, Patrick Swazzy often did the kind of did something like what Jacob Gillenhaal is doing now, which he’s making, you know, kind of fundamentally, like, take the boys to the movies, you know, of this, you know, for a Baton Rouge kind of action movies. But he would also imbue them with, like, and intensity in a soulfulness that was that was a little bit rare. So I’m curious to see how that works out.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:28

    I I like this movie quite a bit. I think the four part structure is pretty smart and pretty well executed. Right? There’s it’s basically four thirty one minute sequences. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:40

    Thirty thirty one minutes. Like, with pretty distinct breaks. So you have first, you have the the Jake Gyllenhaal and his team, you know, drive around Afghanistan. Then you have the the moment where they’re, like, on the specific raid that they get into where, like, everything goes wrong. Then you have the the third quarter is all about him and Darcelim getting back to the base.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:00

    And then the fourth quarter is he goes back and saves Darcelim, you know, pulls him out. Right? So there’s this very nice sort of setup development and then, you know, and and then reversal thing. Right? Where you sort of Darsilm saves the Jill in all character.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:15

    And then Joan Hall saves the Jerusalem character in return. It’s also just kind of a fascinating movie about frustrations with immigration. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen any big budget kind of mainstream ish film that does as good a job of dealing with the the, like, the insanity of the US immigration system. And some of that obviously specific to the visas that the interpreters were promised, but Also, that’s just a generalized thing. If anybody has ever dealt with the US immigration system, it’s about the most maddening bureaucracy in existence and this movie gets at that in a way that I don’t think I have ever encountered in mainstream Hollywood storytelling before.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:58

    One thing that kind of connects this movie and wrath of man
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:01

    as well as his other two most recent films is that they were they they were all scored by this guy Christopher Benstead, who works on the cello and the double bass. And, like, all of these movies have a very kind of interesting rumbling score underneath them. I like this a lot. I thought I thought it really did a good job of kind of setting the stage and the tone, and it’s similarly in wrath of man. But listen, Peter said that you thought it was a little over scored Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:25

    I mean, and it’s also interesting that the movie starts with a country song and then moves into this very, like, done done score. And I felt like that combined with I thought it’s just some stiff direction in the early going. Slowed down the process of building the sort of relationship between the two central characters. Right? I mean, it it over freaks it in a way that makes it a little bit less natural and less emotionally compelling.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:56

    And frankly, the story doesn’t need it. Right? It just does it doesn’t need that kind of sign posting. And I thought that even just to, like, a little bit of a wider touch with the sound mix thing. Like turning down the volume a couple notches might have worked better, but I thought it was a lot.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:12

    I
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:12

    think it was pretty. I I love it. I love all of the the scores in all these movies. To the extent that I actually went back and rewatched the gentleman this weekend in part just because I was like, it’s a thing I hadn’t picked up on when I saw it the first time. I I wanted to, like, see if it was air and sure enough it is.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:28

    It’s this kind of low rumbly menacing sound throughout the whole thing, which is just interesting. It’s it’s it is an entirely different mode for Richie who I think was a little more light hearted. Anyway, we we might talk a little bit more that in the bonus. We’re running on. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:43

    So what do we think? Thumbs up or thumbs down on Guy Ritchie’s production of
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:48

    Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant. Peter, thumbs up and it’s a little bit of a shame that it doesn’t seem to be getting much pickup. Movie didn’t really make much of an impact on the box office this weekend.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:57

    Yep. Lesson.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:59

    Thumbs up. It’s it’s quite good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:01

    Thumbs up. People should check it out. Go see this movie in theaters. It is good. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:06

    That is it for this week’s show. Make sure to head over to Bulwark Plus for our bonus episode on Friday. Get your tickets to the live show Tuesday. Make sixteenth epic in Crystal City Drive House. They’re going fast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:16

    It was like, again, there’s like eleven left. So think about
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:19

    it. Tell
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:20

    your Ron DeSantis strong recommendation from a friend is basically the only way to grow podcast. Audiences if you don’t, girl will die. You did not love two days episode, please can later be on Twitter, it’s honeybunch. I can mention that it is, in fact, best show in your podcast feed See you guys next week.
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