Hyena Road: Solid but Unmemorable Afghanistan War Drama
Though it’s relatively entertaining and frames the wars of horror well, Afghanistan-set Canadian war-drama, Hyena Road, fails to present its plot in any kind of fresh or novel perspective.
The film is set in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan and follows the story of skilled shooter, Ryan Sanders (Sutherland), who – along with his team of snipers – is ambushed by a group of Taliban militants, before finding refuge in the home of a local villager (Arghandabi).
Once back to base, Sanders reports the details of the incident to his commanding officer, Jennifer Bowman (Horne) – with whom he is secretly romantically involved – and Pete Mitchell (Gross himself); a military intelligence officer who is convinced that the man who saved their lives is in fact a legendary Afghan freedom fighter named, Ghost. Believing that if found, Ghost could become a powerful ally, Mitchell soon tasks Sanders to track him down; a mission which throws Sanders back into a hotbed of war and has him questioning his superiors’ motives.
From the technically detailed and adrenaline filled combat scenes, to the insightful characterisation of the challenges faced by both sides, there’s plenty of heart in the film. Written and directed by Paul Gross, the film, whose opening scenes play dangerously close to the superior American Sniper, is small in scale; however, regardless of its limited scope, the roaming camerawork and detailed production design provides the Hyena Road with a sense of authenticity and realism.
Performance wise, Rossif Sutherland – Kiefer Sutherland’s half-brother – offers a charming but an uneven portrayal of an honest soldier bemused by the politics of war, though his romantic subplot doesn’t really offer any emotional pay-off. Meanwhile, Gross is adequately engaging despite his directing commitments while Arghandabi – a non-actor who is familiar with the game of war in real life – offers the most enigmatic performance of all.
Nevertheless, no matter how cinematically sound Hyena Road may be, the film fails to offer anything new or significant to the table and their discussion of war – channelled through Gross’s sometime intrusive voiceover narration which tries to point out to the audience the difference between the good guys and the bad – feels unnecessary and repetitive. Essentially, it’s enjoyable enough on first watch, but it’s unlikely you’ll want to see it again.