Paul Gross's film shines a light on soldiering in Afghanistan, but the result is an apolitical rabble-rouser
Actor-director Paul Gross’ Hyena Road tells the fictional story of the Canadian military’s quest to build the titular thoroughfare deep in the Taliban-stronghold of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province while navigating the quagmire of insurgency and an ideologically bankrupt local militia. Gross portrays Pete, a cynical intelligence officer obsessed with tracking a legendary “unkillable” mujahid known as The Ghost (Neamat Arghandabi), who Pete believes is key to brokering a successful deal. Along the way he befriends Ryan (Rossif Sutherland, resembling not so much famous dad Donald as Titanic-era Billy Zane), an idealistic young sniper involved in an unauthorized affair with a base ops soldier (Christine Horne).
First-time actor Arghandabi reportedly fought under the real Ghost during the Soviet-Afghan war, but his addition sadly doesn’t lend the film much authenticity—even the grey in his hair seems fake in certain lights. Hyena Road succeeds more in its tense, sometimes brutal depictions of battle than in its half-hearted attempts at character building and political intrigue. Ostensibly a provocative exploration of how cultural mores are misunderstood by occupying forces to disastrous effect, it’s really more of an apolitical rabble-rouser. While it’s not American Sniper, it still seems like a missed opportunity for a deeper examination of the longest military operation in the nation’s history.
Hyena Road screens in Glasgow Film Festival: 18 Feb, CCA, 6pm | 19 Feb, CCA, 3.30pm