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TIFF Review: Hyena Road

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A Canadian sniper (Rossif Sutherland) stationed in Afghanistan gets drawn into a tribal feud as an intelligence officer (Paul Gross) attempts to a forge an alliance with a legendary Mujahideen warrior (Neamat Arghandabi) who has mysteriously reappeared.

 A band of Canadian military snipers are patrolling in advance of a convoy and uncover an ambush; they end up in a village and are provided with safe refuge by an mysterious Afghan elder.  Back at the military compound an intelligence officer takes an interest in the saviour of the returning soldiers and believes him to be The Ghost who helped to defeat the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Using a local informant the intelligence officer seeks to verify his suspicions and uncover the reason for the reappearance in an attempt to strengthen the resistance effort against the Taliban.  Assisting the operation is a talented sniper who has a romantic entanglement with an officer and is loyal to his comrades in arms.  Things do not go entirely to plan leading to a showdown on Hyena Road which is seen as an integral part of the military campaign to win the war in Afghanistan.

As a director Paul Gross (Due South) has come a long way from Passchendaele (2008) which turned the infamous World War I into a woeful love story.  Thankfully, the romance in Hyena Road is not at the forefront, instead that honour is given to exploring the Canadian military operations in Afghanistan.   A great attention to detail was given to production design as well as to the camera which is always moving and placed in the centre of the action.  Even though his voice as the narrator is immediately distinguishable, Gross is initially unrecognizable in the contemporary war film with his grey hair and beard.

Despite examining the modern day conflict with sweeping vistas and explanations of tribal customs, the war movie comes across as an empty bullet casing.  The visual montages are repetitive instead of punctuating the drama.  A fatal flaw is that the life and death stakes are undermined by the cast being treated like rough sketches rather than fleshed out human beings.  Unfortunately, Hyena Road follows a conventional and an uninspiring path.

2 out of 5

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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