The Hunter * * * 1/2
Director: Daniel Nettheim.
Screenplay: Wain Fimeri, Alice Addison.
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O’Connor, Morgana Davies, Finn Woodlock, Sullivan Stapleton, Callan Mulvey, Jacek Koman.
Willem Dafoe is one of those actors that despite possessing a recognisable name in cinema still isn’t afraid to take on projects that are in danger of being unrecognised. He’s worked with some of my favourite director’s in David Lynch, Lars von Trier and Wes Anderson and yet always finds the time to be involved in lesser known works. This is another example of that.
A biotech corporation hires hunter Martin David (Willem Dafoe) to track down the, believed to be extinct, Tasmanian tiger. He finds board with a single mother (Frances O’Connor) and her two children who’s father has disappeared in the hills, hunting the same animal. As David delves further into the hunt, he realises that all is not as it seems and his employers, the locals and a tracker (Sam Neill) have other plans for him.
The premise of this film about the hunt for the last known Tasmanian tiger is intriguing enough but it grips even more because of the finely tuned, low-key atmosphere; the indulgence in some beautiful sweeping landscapes and a lead actor that has character written all over his rugged face. From the opening alone, it’s apparent that this film is in no rush and seemingly revels in it’s methodical approach. Now, that’s not normally a problem for me. In fact, I welcome it but when the film hints at a further depth without fully providing it then I begin to feel disappointment creeping in. There are themes of man’s relationship with nature and environmental issues going on underneath it all somewhere but the deeper you dig, you realise it’s not that profound. Yet, on the surface it would have you believe it is. That’s not to say that there’s not plenty to admire here. There is; it has a decent – if underdeveloped -conspiracy thriller element and it’s more than competently shot with beautiful cinematography and another solid performance from Dafoe to add to his growing canon. Most of the weight is on his shoulders and he carries it well but despite a very good performance, I wasn’t entirely convinced about his characters actions. On the one hand, he was very kind and concerned and the other, uncaring and cold. I think the fault with this lies with the script. His character isn’t fleshed out enough leaving him enigmatic. Maybe this was intentional but I just took his character to be muddled, giving off mixed messages and never fully allowing me to identify with him. The rest of the characters came off even less developed which would leave you to believe that this air of mystery amongst them was part of it all. If so, it just didn’t work for me.
It shares similar themes to “The Grey” before it, in terms of man versus nature and even in it’s attempts at a philosophical approach. I enjoyed it but I expected a little more profundity.