Kigali, Rwanda, 1994. When Hutu militias begin slaughtering thousands of Tutsi, many flee to the safety of a school — also a post for UN soldiers — run by Father Christopher (Hurt). Also present is Joe Connor (Dancy), a young Englishman straight out of college who’s looking to 'make a difference'.
Among so many painful moments in Michael Caton-Jones’ latest, there is one that best sums up the atrocious state of affairs: a Tutsi man — the head of a family living in the school that has become a refugee camp — politely asks, with all the dignity he can muster, for the UN soldiers who are about to leave to shoot them; it will be quicker and less painful than being hacked to death by machetes. It’s offered up without grandstanding, and it’s typically, utterly heartbreaking.
Shooting Dogs shares common ground — at some points crossing over — with last year’s Hotel Rwanda (comparisons will be as inevitable as they are obvious). But here, by telling the story primarily from the point of Father Christopher and Joe, the burden of white Western guilt is pressed upon us more specifically.
As the world-weary priest fast running out of faith, Hurt plays the type of role he might as well get trademarked, never missing a beat. He’s ably supported by Dancy, Horwitz and newcomer Ashitey, but everyone in front of the camera owes a debt to David Wolstencroft’s understated script, which has the feel of on-form Loach and only ever falters in its final scenes.
There’s no way this story could ever have made a bad film, but a script that refuses sentimentality and fine acting elevate it just short of greatness.
Reviewed by Sam Toy