9 Movies Like Guy Ritchie's The Covenant (2023) On Netflix UK

Staff & contributors

The concepts of roads not taken and domino effects have received plenty of cinematic attention in their showier forms by way of multiverse comic book movies and dimension-hopping films like Everything Everywhere All At Once. But, though there’s no hint of sci-fi in Past Lives, Celine Song’s gentle film can count itself as one of the best treatments of that universe-spawning question: “what if?”

When her family moves from Seoul to Canada, teenage Na Young bids a loaded farewell to classmate Hae Sung and changes her name to Nora. Years later, they reconnect online and discover the spark still burns between them. This is no idealistic romance, though: Past Lives is told with sober candor. Song acknowledges real obstacles standing in the way of a relationship between the two — those pragmatic (distance) and, more painfully, personal (evolving personalities, American husbands).

Those two threads — unrealized romance and the transmutation of identity that so often takes place after migrating — are expertly entwined in Past Lives to produce a sublime, aching meditation on memory and time, practical love and idealistic romance, and all the complex contradictions that exist in between. That Song communicates so much and so delicately in only her first film makes Past Lives all the more stunning.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: An Min-yeong, Chang Ki-ha, Chase Sui Wonders, Choi Won-young, Emily Cass McDonnell, Federico Rodriguez, Greta Lee, Hwang Seung-eon, Isaac Powell, Jack Alberts, Jane Yubin Kim, John Magaro, Jojo T. Gibbs, Kristen Sieh, Moon Seung-a, Moon Seung-ah, Seo Yeon-woo, Teo Yoo, Yim Seung-min, Yoon Ji-hye

Director: Celine Song

Rating: PG-13

Based on the real-life experience of director Elegance Bratton, who was himself a Black gay marine soldier during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” period in the US, The Inspection documents the behind-the-scenes cruelty that goes on in training the armed forces. Specifically, it inspects how institutions like the marines are hardwired to promote a certain kind of masculinity and how people like Bratton, perennially in the margins, respond, react, and fight back. 

It’s moving and artful but also lighthearted and humorous, finding light even in the darkest corners. It’s self-contradictory that way, but the film is all the better and nuanced for it. Gabriel Union’s performance is also worth noting here; in a career-defining turn, she transforms into a character at once so hateful and loving, you’ll be hard-pressed not to give her your full attention onscreen.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Dominguez, Andrew Kai, Aubrey Joseph, Becky Boxer, Bokeem Woodbine, Daniel Williamson, Eman Esfandi, Gabrielle Union, Jeremy Pope, McCaul Lombardi, Nicholas Logan, Raúl Castillo, Steve Mokate, Tyler Merritt, Wynn Reichert

Director: Elegance Bratton

Rating: R

It’s a bit on the sensational side, but this Netflix documentary about a family torn apart by the medical industry is fascinating and empathetic enough to bring justice to its delicate subject matter. Director Henry Roosevelt takes care to use as many angles as possible in presenting the documentary’s central mystery —why is the hospital so insistent on separating Maya from her mother Beata?—while also leaving enough room for the audience to come to their own conclusions. I only wish they would probe into that question a bit more and get experts to hypothesize, for instance, what exactly would the hospital get out of allegedly lying and if it’s an occurrence that’s been happening in many places other than Florida. Painting it as a systemic problem might’ve given it more punch, though admittedly, it’s already stirring and powerful as it is.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Henry Roosevelt

Rating: TV-14

You could take away a lot of parts in Reptile, and it would still make sense. It’s the kind of film that leans on sound and style to justify overlong takes and teeth-grittingly predictable scenes. But all is forgiven when del Toro, who also co-writes and co-produces the film, appears on screen. He has a simmering, captivating presence that demands you keep your eyes on him even when little, if anything at all, happens. Silverstone, Eric Bogosian, and Ato Essandoh are likewise enthralling, but Justin Timberlake unfortunately does not hold the same staying power. The film is at its weakest when it tries to convince us that he plays a complex, layered man when, in fact, Timberlake relays nothing but surface-level thrills. But Reptile is at its strongest when it gives us del Toro in all his forceful glory. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Africa Miranda, Alicia Silverstone, Allison Smith, Amy Parrish, Ato Essandoh, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Dyer, Dani Deetté, Deena Beasley, Domenick Lombardozzi, Elena Varela, Eric Bogosian, Frances Fisher, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Gregory Albrecht, James Devoti, Jesse C. Boyd, Jp Lambert, Justin Timberlake, Karl Glusman, Kurt Yue, Lee Perkins, Matilda Lutz, Matt Medrano, Matthew Cornwell, Michael Beasley, Michael Pitt, Michael Rene Walton, Mike Pniewski, Monique Yvette Grant, Owen Teague, Sky Ferreira, Thad Luckinbill, Tiffany Fallon, Victor Rasuk

Director: Grant Singer

Rating: R

King of Clones tells the story of Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean scientist once praised as a national hero for his pioneering work in cloning. However, Hwang's reputation was shattered in 2006 when it was revealed that he had falsified data in his research. The documentary follows Hwang's rise and fall, and it provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of scientific research and the ethical challenges that it raises. Through simplified explanations and testimonies from beneficiaries and journalists that exposed his fraudulent activities, the film remains accessible without losing its narrative. It also opens the conversation on the progress of cloning technology and the implications of not having ethics that can be agreed upon among the scientific community and the general public. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: George W. Bush, Hwang Woo-suk, Jung Ho-seok, Kim Dae-jung, Kim Jong-il, Kim Tae-hyung, Park Ji-sung, Roh Moo-hyun, Son Heung-min

Director: Aditya Thayi

Rating: PG-13

More streamlined and more technically ambitious than its predecessor, yet even less interested in developing an interesting setting or characters, Extraction 2 takes the most predictable route available for an action sequel. The first film's attempts to center its narrative on the unnecessary loss of life of children is nothing but an inconsequential footnote in this movie—which gestures toward the same ideas but never actually allows its already generic characters to be emotionally affected by anything.

So thank goodness that Extraction 2's action is so frequently fun to watch, proudly wearing its influences from movies like The Raid, and from the most relentless of video game set pieces. There's genuine inspiration behind how creative and how brutal the violence can get here, brought to life by crisp sound design and production design that the characters can constantly interact with. So while all the halfhearted character work doesn't give the action any extra weight, the action on its own is already so dynamic, that every set piece is still worth the wait.

Genre: Action, Thriller

Actor: Adam Bessa, Andro Japaridze, Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bernhardt, Dato Bakhtadze, George Lasha, Golshifteh Farahani, Idris Elba, Irakli Kvirikadze, Justin Howell, Levan Saginashvili, Olga Kurylenko, Patrick Newall, Sam Hargrave, Sinéad Phelps, Tinatin Dalakishvili, Tornike Bziava, Tornike Gogrichiani

Director: Sam Hargrave

Rating: R

Stories like Il Mare and Your Name/Kimi no Na Wa work because, unlike other romances, the conflict is understandably difficult. After all, how the heck can anyone fight against time and space? Love You Long Time takes a stab at the unique time-bending premise, with one main difference: the movie’s main lovers can talk to each other directly through an old pair of two-way radios. There’s no need for the two to depend on physical letters or texts. This difference is interesting – immediately, it allows Director JP Habac to play with cinematography, editing, and acting, to make us fall in love with the couple. Split between 2018 and 2022, the film makes meaningful points about the past and present, the years lost to the pandemic, and separation. However, without spoiling anything, the film’s third-act plot twists don’t land as well as they could have. Having them back to back made the plot nearly incomprehensible, and sadly, doesn’t resolve the conflict driving the film.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ana Abad-Santos, Arlene Muhlach, Carlo Aquino, Meanne Espinosa, Patrick Quiroz

Director: Jaime P. Habac Jr.

While investigating a gold heist in Johannesburg, Chili (S'dumo Mtshali) is jaded after an undercover operation fails spectacularly. With one chance left, he must choose between following the law and protecting the wealth of higher-ups or going against it and helping a heist crew dole out the riches to those in need. Wealth redistribution is at the heart of the film, with greed on all sides thwarting any prospects of prosperity for the city. The action-crime-thriller examines economic inequality via the lead cops trying to effect change, all while leaning into a warm visual style that shifts cameras to mirror the tensions. It's a nice touch to the average Robin Hood and "for the people" narrative, but the CGI choices and generic action scenes can get distracting at times.

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Brenda Ngxoli, Deon Lotz, Presley Chweneyagae, S'Dumo Mtshali

Director: Donovan Marsh

Making a heist so unoriginal and uneventful is a feat, and Gold Brick manages to do both without missing a beat. None of the characters are particularly interesting or distinct enough to remember their names. The idea of stealing from a big corporation (usually a solid setup) has no bite because the motivations feel hollow and unrealized. Most of the "ingenious" slight of hands and master plans don't impress or stick, and later plot points' payoffs stay as lackluster as their setups. Crisp, saturated cinematography is pleasant on the eyes but not enough to stop them from glazing over.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Agathe Rousselle, Antoine Gouy, Bruno Lochet, Grégoire Colin, Igor Gotesman, Irina Muluile, Ludovik, Nicolas de Lavergne, Nina Meurisse, Raphaël Quenard, Slimane Dazi, Stéphan Wojtowicz, Youssef Hajdi

Director: Jérémie Rozan