Running Time: 102 mins
Reviewed by: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
The Hunter is another indication of how Australian filmmakers continue to release top quality material and yet, there seems to be no place for this type of film in the United Kingdom multiplex. At a time when screens are crammed with blockbusters and their 3D equivalents, where is the variety and where is the independent offerings? The Hunter was released for one week in my local cinema. This is probably a better run than most cinemas will give this beautifully crafted drama from director, Daniel Nettheim.
Willem Dafoe plays a mercenary named Martin David. Hired by a dubious and sinister chemicals corporation called Red Leaf to track the Tasmanian tiger in the Australian outback, the hunter soon finds that he is up against more than the elements in his quest for this elusive beast. He lodges in the run down home of the troubled Lucy Armstrong (Frances O’Connor) under the guise of a university researcher. He meets Lucy’s young children, the foul-mouthed Sass (Morgana Davies) and the shy Bike (Finn Woodlock) who patiently await the return of their father who has failed to return from his work in the wilderness. However his guide, Jack Mindy (Sam Neill) believes it is more than likely that he died in the savage terrain.
Having been put off a prolonged stay at Armstrong household due to a lack of facilities (i.e. electricity, hot water etc) , Martin approaches the forestry workers at the local bar for a room. Unfortunately they view him as one of the many activists and conversationalists that are doing their best to put a stop to the deforestation in the area. He is given the coolest of receptions.
After spending more time with the family, Martin discovers more than he bargained for, a soul. He grows closer to Lucy and the children and becomes distracted with this task. Yet one family member might be the key to finding the one remaining Tasmanian tiger.
I’ll be surprised if I see a more visually stunning movie in 2012. Films like Rogue and Wolf Creek took full advantage of the breathtaking Australian landscapes and The Hunter is no exception. Some of the early scenes when Mindy guides David through the wilderness are worth the admission price alone.
Although the pace is fairly slow, it never allows you to take your eyes of the action for one second. This is partly due to the cinematography but mostly due to the first rate performances from the cast members. Willem Dafoe’s performance is his best for years. Portraying a man who has no evidence of warmth or feelings left inside him, his interaction with the two children is both amusing and heart warming. Special praise has to be given to both young actors Davies and Woodlock who are wonderful. Sam Neill is as reliable as ever as David’s shifty guide. You never quite know where his allegiances truly lie. Finally Frances O’Connor puts in a solid and touching performance as a mother struggling to cope with the loss of her husband. Whenever I observed O’Connor I couldn’t help but notice how much she resembled Barbara Hershey in her earlier roles.
The pace certainly increases in the final quarter and the last couple of scenes are extremely emotional. What is refreshing is that the story never follows the stereotypical Hollywood formula. This is most definitely an Australian production and things don’t tie up perfectly as life does not tie up perfectly. I urge you to watch this beautiful film before it disappears from the big screen forever.