Hyena Road full movie review - Afghanistan Up Close
Ask most movie goers about war movies and you'll find that they think the only people involved have been Americans and those they are fighting against.
They forget that other countries have been involved in all major wars. HYENA ROAD takes a look at the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and looks at it through the eyes of another fighting force, that of Canada. Jokes have been made at Canada's expense but the fact of the matter is that they've been involved in most major wars as much as any other country (another example was THE DEVIL'S BRIGADE which showed how the US special forces were trained and combined with the Canadian team in WWII).
HYENA ROAD takes a look at the current war through the eyes of three main characters. Ryan (Rossif Sutherland) is the head of a sniper team for who the war is cut and dried. Those are the bad guys, we are the good guys, we take them out, period. There are no gray areas. They follow instructions and feel every stop of the way that they are fighting the good fight.
The second set of eyes on hand belong to Pete (Paul Gross, the writer and director as well), a member of military intelligence who fights the war as a game of chess, moving players from one spot to another, using every piece of data to make a decision. Pete realizes that there are more things going on that a straight out frontal assault. There are decisions to be made based on the customs of the land and the players involved. Of the three characters Pere probably has a better idea than most of what is happening and will happen.
Lastly there is "The Ghost" (Niamatullad Arghandabi). The Ghost was a fierce fighter during the Afghan war against the Russians, a living legend whose stature among his people is highly regarded. In hiding for years Pete wants to find out why he has returned, if he is there to help their cause or that of the enemy. As the story plays out it seems their connection is for the better. But more is going on beneath the surface here.
The three stories overlap when Ryan and his team bring back information on the fact that the Ghost is in the area. Having no idea who he is they are contacted by Pete and he fills them in and works with them to set up a meet. When the main bad guy Walid shows and abducts little children the team wants to take him out there and then but Ryan stops them from doing so. Their frustration is palpable and a confrontation with Pete inevitable when they return to camp. But as Pete sits down with Ryan to explain the situation, to let him know that the long game is more important, it doesn't set well with Ryan or his team even though they understand.
For the team the line has now been blurred. What is the right thing to do? Who are the fighting? And what plans are in store for both them and the Ghost? While watching the film you begin to understand all the planning and moving of soldiers that are necessary to achieve the final goals of the military but you also witness the fact that other players in the game, mainly the Ghost, have motives and moves of their own. And the main pawns being played by both sides in this game are Ryan and his men.
Not only is this movie interesting for the sake of looking at the war from the perspective of the military of another country, the story that it all centers around is fascinating as well. Far too many think of the people of Afghanistan that live in the hills as simple peasants but the truth is they are more shrewd than some give them credit for. They haven't survived for the centuries that they have by being just goat herders. This film treats them as opponents worth of stepping up to the chess board placed on the table by Pete. There are moments in this film that will disturb viewers when they see how children are treated and sold by callous villains. There are moments that will offer glimpses of violence of soldiers in the field that are realistic and gruesome. There are moments of concern you will have for the different characters involved in this story. And in the end you'll leave this film knowing you've seen a war film that tells a story, tells it well and is more realistic than most. This one is worth taking a look at.