Sunday, June 5, 2016

Film Review: Hyena Road (2015)

Copyright: Elevation Pictures
It’s not often that the international audience gets to see anything from a Canadian perspective, apart from how it is to live in a trailer park. But with Hyena Road, the film provides this and places it in the setting that is most un-Canadian: the war-torn Kandahar province in Afghanistan. The film follows a mixture of Canadian military personnel in the heart of this Asian land, looking to build a road through one of its most dangerous provinces and the heartbeat of the Taliban insurgency for decades.

As the joint work of a unit of special operators, a command & control team and an unorthodox intelligence officer begins to unravel, the audience is shown how treacherous this conflict is. Here, there is always a chance for a bullet to a head or an IED going off, while the Canadians possess their own versions of deadly deliveries that can be dispensed to the local insurgents (and other Afghans as well). 

The director Paul Gross, who also wrote the movie, tried like many before him to combine a war action film with a deeper analysis of a country that gave various invaders headaches (or cases of missing heads) since the time of Alexander the Great. 

When it comes to its action parts, Hyena Road constantly over delivers and under delivers. Sometimes, the muzzle flashes of the actors’ rifles look like they were made by special effects intern and there are other equally lacking moments. At the same time, some action sequences are completely unpredictable and look very engaging, even sickening when it comes to the level of detail, similar to great war movies like Fury.

But, the film, like Gross’ vision, really excels in presenting Afghanistan like a completely foreign place where almost none of those Canadians really should be there. Apart from the intelligence officers, the rest of the characters are more like astronauts living on Mars in their bases, which come out only to destroy or build something. But, no matter which one of these they do, they never really get the Martians and the things they want.  

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