Love and HonourSet in war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hearts and Minds is both a tragedy and a love story, combining elements of The Kite Runner, The Deer Hunter and Paradise Now.

The core of the film is one man’s attempts to save the soul of his brother and stay true to his ideals. When Ahmed Khan returns to Jalalabad from Pakistan following the defeat of the Taliban, his world is suddenly shattered when a rogue US missile, targetted at a Taliban leader, wipes out his family on his wedding night.

Devastated, he returns to Lahore with his younger brother, Turan, who becomes increasingly radicalised and is recruited by Al-Qaeda to train child suicide bombers. Following the murder of a Chief Inspector and the slaughter of numerous innocent bystanders, Ahmed drugs and kidnaps Turan and returns to Afghanistan where he starts the painful task of rebuilding their lives through the restoration of the family farm.

Turan’s rehabilitation appears almost complete when he falls in love with Farishta, the daughter of a neighbouring farmer but this ends tragically when a firefight between the Taliban and US jets results in her death despite Turan’s attempts to save her. Consumed with hatred and vengeance, Turan rejoins the Taliban and sets out to launch a suicide attack on a bus filled with delegates returning from a major Peace Conference in Kabul. Only when he is about to detonate the bomb does he realise that his brother is also on the bus.

The emotional heart of the film relates to the love affair between a young British soldier, John Scholes, and an older nurse, Rachel Lockwood, whom he initially encounters on his flight to Afghanistan. Fragile and unprepared, his first engagement with the enemy exposes his darkest fears and he is overwhelmed by the brutality and futility of war. Wounded and re-assigned to escort duties, he gradually falls in love with Rachel, who harbours an inner secret about herself and the death of his older brother. Rachel’s decision to join the bus at the last minute threatens to bring their relationship to a sudden, tragic end.

The film also has a very strong geo-political element and pits the US President’s emissary, Ruth Stanford, against the staunch Republican, Mitchell, who will stop at nothing to prevent the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. His ally, Colonel Andersen, also harbours a hidden secret and he will sacrifice anybody, including Mitchell and the Peace Delegates for his own ends.

© Graham  Walker 2012

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user carlmontgomery