Director: Daniel Nettheim
Writers: Alice Addison (screenplay), Wain Fimeri (original adaptation), Julia Leigh (Novel)
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Morgana Davies
The Hunter charts the tale of one isolated and disconnected mans slow journey back to finding his own humanity and morals. This is subtle though and not what the film initially shows us. Dafoe is excellent throughout and his change in demeanor is subtle and excellently done. While the film may seem to be about Martin’s hunt, the film is really more about Martin himself than what he is and is doing.
Martin (a ragged looking Dafoe) is a hunter, perhaps one of the best in the business. He is tasked by a large corporation to hunt down a very rare animal, the Tasmanian Tiger (possibly the last surviving tiger) as they want its DNA for nefarious purposes. They seem willing to do pretty much anything to obtain to this goal. He arrives in Tasmania posing as a university researcher to find that his lodgings are not all he expected them to be, yet when he encounters resistance and hostility in the local town (looking for a new place to stay) he returns back to his original option.
The lodgings in question are in a ramshackle house occupied by Lucy (O’Connor) and her two children, Sass and Bike (played impressively by both Davies and Woodlock). They are doing most things as well as they can, as their mother spends most of her time asleep due to taking various medications. Jack (played by the usually brilliant Neill) comes around every day to help out and keep an eye on them all. Jack also acts as Martin’s guide up the mountains. But not all is at it first appears to be.
We soon find out that Lucy’s husband went missing up in the mountainous wilderness while researching himself and the locals seem not too happy with people interfering in their business. Jack himself also appears to be not what he says and Martin soon gets the uneasy feeling that he is being followed. This is an interesting and striking film covering many different things. The acting is mostly excellent and the dialogue is kept to a bare minimum. The chemistry between Martin and Bike is also brilliant given that Bike does not speak.
The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and it really is a beautiful part of the world. The photography is very impressive and makes the most of the location. Likewise the directing and camera placement is also very good and at times the atmosphere really makes you feel like you are exposed to the elements along with Martin. The score is also a highlight of the film with haunting classical notes which fit the mood and scenes perfectly.
Overall The Hunter is an excellent Australian production and I very much recommend the film. The film is rather slow though but never dull and it is perhaps not for everyone. The ending is extremely well done and very poignant. I have not read the novel that this film is based upon so cannot verify accuracy and content, but as a standalone independent film this is well above average with high production values and a great cast. One to catch if you love beautiful scenery and slow, careful character studies.
The Sage’s Rating: 7/10