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Hyena Road features Paul Gross, left, as a Canadian intelligence operative who recruits a sniper.Christos Kalohoridis

The Vancouver International Film Festival runs Sept. 24 through Oct. 9. The Globe and Mail will pick one must-watch film each day and include a capsule review.

Canada's complicated military involvement in Afghanistan has created a broad canvas for feature film and TV to come, just waiting to be explored.

But, for now, we have Canadian filmmaker Paul Gross's intense and riveting thriller Hyena Road, a nimble blend of suspense, action and philosophizing that is an engrossing rebuttal to the sense that only Hollywood can do big, kinetic entertainment.

The film features Mr. Gross as a wily Canadian intelligence operative who recruits a Canadian sniper, played by Rossif Sutherland, as well as his associates – including Allan Hawco, the creator and star of CBC's former Republic of Doyle series – into a scheme to win over a mysterious Afghan freedom fighter. But it does not go well and Mr. Gross is unflinching in depicting how bad it gets with harrowing, tense consequences so suspenseful they almost hurt to watch.

The acting throughout is solid, with Mr. Gross especially good. He shot his exteriors in Jordan, substituting for Afghanistan, giving the film a tangible setting – though a very few attempts to stir apparent stock background footage into the mix don't always work. Regardless, this is recommended viewing.