Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim, the stars of the upcoming film “Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant,” visited Fort Irwin, Calif., April 14, 2023, with the United Services Organizations.
Gyllenhaal and Salim flew by a Black Hawk to Fort Irwin and received a brief by the chief of staff and operations chief for the National Training Center. They met with soldiers from the installation and the rotational unit before introducing the film before a screening at the post theater.
In the film, Gyllenhaal plays an Army sergeant who is saved by Salim’s character, an Afghan interpreter. Gyllenhaal’s character later returns to Afghanistan when he learns Salim’s character is being hunted by the Taliban.
“I think that this movie, first and foremost, is an action movie full of entertainment, but at the heart of it is a story about what we do for each other,” Gyllenhaal said. “Our ethos is no one left behind, and I think sometimes in our world there’s so much media and so much information coming at us that certain stories and things come out of the limelight and to shed a little bit of light again on the story and the idea of it is a really important thing.”
Salim said he agreed that the story was important to tell.
“We always hear about the things that divide us just because it’s more interesting to write about or talk about in the media, but I feel that I love this movie because it’s just about unlikely friendship, it’s about brotherhood, it’s about taking care of the guy next to you despite how dangerous the situation is,” Salim said. “It’s about making the right choices when it’s most difficult to make the right choices.”
Before premiering the film, Gyllenhaal and Salim spent time with Fort Irwin soldiers and families around the installation, including Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brandon Elliott, a pilot in command with Company A “Desert Hawks,” 2916th Aviation Battalion, 916th Support Brigade, who flew Gyllenhaal and Salim to Fort Irwin.
“They were both very welcoming and took their time interacting with us,” Elliott said. “They seemed truly excited to be there for the visit and to meet everyone on Fort Irwin.”
Gyllenhaal expressed gratitude toward the Fort Irwin community following his visit.
“From the moment we were greeted by everyone at the airport in Los Angeles, everybody has been not only professional but good humored,” Gyllenhaal said. “I was really impressed with all the systems here and all of the incredible skill on hand and on display.”
Gyllenhaal and Salim learned about the mission of Fort Irwin and the NTC and saw Ujen, one of the mock cities in the training area, known as “the box”.
“Everyone’s been so generous and so warm and welcoming, and the sheer size and scale of this place is just very, very impressive,” Salim said. “I never imagined that a training facility of this size and with these opportunities for training even existed in the world so that was very educational to see.”
The opportunity to meet people and learn about their stories is one of the biggest takeaways for Gyllenhaal from making the film and visit Fort Irwin, he said.
“I think one of the incredible things about the work that we do is you get to meet people you would never have expected to, not only in our research and our work for the roles we play, but also in sharing our movie and publicizing it,” Gyllenhaal said. “I just feel so grateful for my work because I don’t know if I would have been able to come to Fort Irwin in this way if I didn’t do what I do and it’s just such an honor to be here.”
For Salim, the experience of creating the film and making a living as an actor is a “privilege,” he said.
“Working with one of the best directors in the world, sitting next to Jake today that I worked with and I can call a friend … it’s just been such a learning experience and an honor for me and that the movie also has such a strong message and a warm heart and that brings us together here today is just a big experience in life that I’m very thankful to have gotten,” Salim said.
Elliott, a Pleasant Hill, Calif., native, said he appreciated the USO bringing Gyllenhaal and Salim to Fort Irwin for the visit.
“We enjoyed getting to see their movie, especially since it wasn’t released yet,” Elliott said. “Seeing a movie before it’s even out was such a unique experience that we wouldn’t have gotten to have without the USO, Fort Irwin and the Desert Hawks bringing them out!”
“Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant” hits theaters April 21.