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Kandahar: Is Tom Harris Based on a Real CIA Office? Fact vs. Fiction

The action-thriller film “Kandahar,” directed by Ric Roman Waugh, centers on a CIA agent’s escape through hostile Afghanistan deserts. The main character of the movie, played by Gerard Butler, is Tom Harris, who helps the CIA destroy Iran’s nuclear reactor. Tom learns that his identity has been revealed while on his upcoming assignment in Herat, Afghanistan, making him vulnerable to various foes who are out to either capture him or worse.

With time running out, Tom and his interpreter Mohammad “Mo” Doud must retreat to a former CIA facility near Kandahar. “Kandahar” emphasizes America’s role in the Middle East’s turbulent political situation and centers on it. Viewers may question whether Tom Harris’ persona has any basis in truth given the political themes of the movie and his affiliation with the CIA and the military. If so, here is every piece of information we have on Tom Harris’s background from “Kandahar.”

Is Tom Harris Based on a Real Person?

Tom Harris is inspired by a real person to some extent. “Kandahar,” a book by former soldier Mitchell LaFortune, is based on LaFortune’s experiences while serving in Afghanistan. LaFortune’s life experiences, character qualities, and eccentricities serve as the basis for Tom Harris’s personality. “I wanted to specifically highlight how vulnerable you are as an American in a foreign combat zone,” the author said. We Are The Mighty had a talk with the screenwriter about this.

LaFortune enlisted in the military in 2006 after being impacted by the 9/11 tragedy and motivated by his World War II veteran grandfather. LaFortune continued his military career by working for the Defense Intelligence Agency and serving on deployments to Afghanistan’s border with Iran. LaFortune had first-hand real-life experiences and tales because of this, which helped him create Tom’s persona and give his story legitimacy.

In 2016, LaFortune finished writing the screenplay that would eventually become “Kandahar.” The movie’s production did not begin until 2021, amid the American pullout from Afghanistan. As a result, LaFortune decided to alter his narrative when he saw how significantly the political and social mood of the nation had changed. “I simply wanted to concentrate on the shared principles that all of us share, and at the end of the day, 500,000 veterans served in Afghanistan. Politics are irrelevant; what matters are the people. I personally spent a decade working to improve Afghanistan’s future, according to LaFortune.

LaFortune intended to convey the same spirit and values through Tom’s character while still telling a heroic story that was based on his own experiences. Tom’s character in “Kandahar” was given a humanity that many viewers could identify with by basing him on LaFortune’s reality and expanding on it with strong, socially important themes. In addition, the character of Tom in this movie is reminiscent of the somewhat contentious “White Savior” cliche in spy movies.

However, the story is aware of this and uses it purposefully and knowingly to highlight a significant issue in real life. Ric Roman Waugh remarked, “That lens was important to be told from a Western character invading these countries and being complicit in it,” when asked about his movie’s use of a “white lens” for its narrative. Yes, it is a privilege, but it also has a significant message that we must accept and comprehend the human cost.

As a result, Tom’s personality and worldview greatly influence the movie’s social and moral messages while emulating the experiences of countless war veterans in real life. A study found that between 1.9 million and 3 million service members deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than half doing so more than once. Many of these wartime veterans suffer physical or psychological wounds that profoundly alter their life when they return home.

Therefore, “Kandahar” shows a vulnerable side of war that many soldiers will be able to relate to through Tom and his inherent incapacity to move on from war and violence and leave it behind. After serving in the military, LaFortune made the decision to follow his longtime love of writing. With the help of Tom Harris and “Kandahar,” he was able to portray an accurate portrayal of his experiences and principles while also delivering a message that was dear to his heart. In the end, even though Tom’s character and history do not exactly match LaFortune’s, he is nonetheless basically based on the author.

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