Hyena Road movie full length review - Canadian army finds confusion of loyalties and hatreds in Afghanistan.
The last line is the key, spoken by narrator (and writer, director, star) Paul Gross: "As the Afghans might say, 'You have the clocks, but we have the time.'" Might say, that is, but probably won't ? they keep their secrets.
Hyena Road is about the gap between the modern Western understanding/army and the mystique of the ancient remote Afghanistan. They have a large, eternal history, whereas we have our short history and technology. So that's where modern armies go to get confused and die. The mystique extends back far beyond the Canadian and American mission, back past the defeated Russians, even back beyond Alexander the Great. As the latter discovered, even the sand there is hostile.
This is an expertly made war film, in some ways typical of its genre. The sudden battle scenes are punctuated by throbbing local music, with the occasional reminder of our rock. Our heroes are a small unit who endear themselves with their comradeship and humour. They face terrible attacks from a horde of unidentified insurgents. As the enemy sweeps out from the dunes they seem a force of nature attacking what we consider to be the agents of civilization ? as the Indians attacked our settlers, the Axis our Allies, the Cong our forces in Nam. Our wars always seem to be Our Culture against Them Savages. Their films simply reverse those roles.
Yet in some ways this film is very different, fresh. These are Canadian soldiers we follow, not the usual American, so the unit has a consistency the tradition of the US Melting Pot eschewed. But we swear as much. And we fight as bravely.
Even a love affair breaks out, with the predictable hope and doom. If the affair seems implausible from the perspective of military rules (of engagement?), it serves a larger thematic purpose. It reminds us that the war does not erase normal human emotions, normal urges, and the hope for a future. So if the dad-to-be dies, the abducted little Afghan girls are found among other caged children and released to what we would like to convince ourselves will be full, normal lives.
Unlikely. The film's key insight is the humongous gap between that culture and ours. We have the impressive technology that shrinks space and has unprecedented destructive capacity. But that's no match for that much older culture with its unfathomable ways of thinking, alien values, indecipherable loyalties, and the prime force and result of such a long history, resilience. They take everything that we ? and time ? throws at them and carry on. The elder with unmatched eyes has a perspective our normal ones can never have.
The title refers to the road the Canadian army is trying to build to ensure the transit of forces and supplies. It will serve the people as much as the army. It's so important the insurgents are determined to destroy it. The formal opening ceremony is supposed to forge a partnership ? but it blows up in the Canadians' face. In that world of tribal confusion and hatreds all partnerships may prove a forgery.