The Hunter (2011)

Director: Daniel Nettheim
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O’Connor, Morgana Davies, Calian Mulvey, Finn Woodlock . Australia . 1h 42m

Based on : The Hunter by Julia Leigh

It’s not often a wild storyline produces such a masterpiece of a movie but there’s a lot to be amazed about in this redemption thriller surrounding the extinct Tasmanian tiger a biotech company and a hippy conservationist family living in the Australian sticks.

Heavily based on a book of the same title by Julia Leigh, the film managed to capture the essence of the original novel and sets it perfectly in the lush wilderness of Tasmania, it doesn’t look like the typical Australian film and is quite refined, with it’s far out story, which is empowered enough that at times it’s easy to find it plausible.

A weathered and extremely diligent mercenary, Martin David (Dafoe) is hired by a military biotech company called Red Leaf to go to Tasmania, gathers samples of the Tasmania Tiger, with a further instruction to kill all the reaming tigers so their rivals won’t be able to get ahead of them in the game. Now I’m pretty sure that the Tasmanian tiger has been extinct since the olden days, the last remaining tiger looked as if it were photographed in the late 1800’s to my untrained eye. But here we have a race to a fabled last remaining tiger and to harvest it for a lab.

On arriving to the local region, Martin stands out to the locals and is made a target by a local group who work for a forestry group, they believe he’s out to stop them from cutting back the local wood as he’s bunking with a family who’s patriarch Jarred? was big into conservation  but has been missing and presumed dead for some months.

Posing as a university biologist he gets cosy with the remaining members of the Armstrong family, the mother, Lucy (O’Connor) is highly medicated and is hardly seen at the beginning of the movie, but her two children cling onto Martin and charm and alarm him with their Aussie charm. Jamie hasn’t spoken in years but Katie makes up for her brothers silence with her docile sailor like language.

While battling the vile attacks by the loggers, and trying to sort out the dysfunctional family, he also has to locate the tiger(s). He spruces the place up a little, confiscates Lucy’s medication which is being delivered by Jack Mindy (Neill) a family friend who has some inside information and wearing his heart on his sleeve you can see he has deeper feelings for Lucy but is hiding some devastating secret. Often returning to the bush Marin finds traces that Jarreds research and uncovers a lot of secrets buried in the bush.

There’s an overall downtempo atmosphere to the film, there’s a lot of blue shady filter and this is enhanced, in the first part by Martin’s craggy behaviour. He’s a determined individual who just wants to get his job done, the family were an hindrance at first, a distraction but he soon grows to love them, stepping in as a part time replacement dad. Dafoe’s outsider presence is very apt as he’s the only American cast in a native Australian film. He’s also an actor who is no stranger to playing a solitary hard-core worker, as he did very successfully as the drug pusher in Light Sleeper () but no matter what the role his character stands out from the rest.

There’s a lot of passion in the film making and acting, I really loved Sam Neill’s character, as the family friend, detached but had so much going on, it’s a shame he didn’t get more screen time, but he doesn’t falter with the short parts that he has.

The Hunter is just a brilliant drama, while touching on ecology and extinction, greed and conservation, there’s a deeper part to this complex movie. It’s a portrait of a man who stares into the abyss and it certainly does stare back. The man character begins to change before our eyes, as he slips into this void, but how will he emerge when the void has finished with him.

Rating: 9/10

R: Dying Breed (2008), Roar (1981), Light Sleeper (1992),The Edge (1997)

5s: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill

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