Willem Dafoe goes for a walkabout in the Tasmanian wilderness in search of its elusive tiger but soon finds he may be the one being hunted.
Bringing to mind films such as Deliverance and The Mission, Daniel Nettheim’s beautiful movie The Hunter shows the wild forests in all their raw glory and has plenty of well fleshed out characters to give the piece its heart and soul. Dafoe plays Martin a hunter commissioned by a Biotech company (yay!) with nefarious plans (booo!) to kill the last Tasmanian tiger and harness its unique prey paralysing toxins. He decamps to Lucy’s (Frances O’Connor) cabin that she shares with her two children. Martin gets to know the kids while Lucy spends most of her time heavily sedated due to the disappearance of her husband.
The Kiwi’s answer to Donald Sutherland aka Sam Neil (who was actually born in Omagh, Co. Tyrone) turns up doing his usual spiel – seeming well meaning, but all the while you expect he is up to something. The film isn’t that revolutionary in its story or morals and may even remind some people of The Life Aquatic which starred Dafoe as well. The real charm is in its pacing and execution. Nothing is rushed, Nettheim takes his time settling us in to the sights of the forests and the methodical nature of the hunter. The development of the relationship between Martin and the two children is totally believable, if a little cliched.
The loggers in the area aren’t that fond of Martin poking his nose around as they feel he may be trying to curtail their only source of employment. This makes for some hairy altercations between all concerned adding great tension to the picture. Original music by Andrew Lancaster, Michael Lira and Matteo Zingales has to be mentioned as it sets the whole tone of the film, whether it’s driving the suspense or subtly complementing the sound of the forest. Also a use of the Boss’s “I’m on Fire” is one of the stand out scenes of the film.
It’s great in the “blockbuster” season to see a film taking it’s time and allowing the story to unfold naturally unconstrained by satisfying a key demographic. Granted Hunter is slightly un-original but I’ll let this slide due to the great thought and care taken throughout.
Australia / Directed By: Daniel Nettheim / Written By: Alice Addison / Starring: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Morgana Davies / 102min / Adventure, Drama / Release: 6 April 2012 (US/Canada), 6 July 2012 (Irl/UK)