The Hunter Reviews
However a Slow paced and CGI tiger fails to impress!
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.
Very good movie! This is a film full of evocative movements, which all serve to drive the narrative forward and provide insights into the character. The plot is unique and I'm sure I have not come across anything similar before. The landscapes are amazingly beautiful and the story line keeps you going. I like Dafoe's performance on this.
A mercenary employed by a highly secretive biotech-research company sets out into the wilds of Tasmania in search of the elusive Tasmanian tiger -- an animal assumed to be extinct by scientists, yet rumored to have been spotted in the area in recent years. Adapted from the novel by author Julia Leigh, The Hunter follows Martin (Willem Dafoe) as he ventures out on his mission and arrives at the home of Lucy Armstrong (Frances O'Connor), who has been heavily depressed since her husband vanished into the surrounding wilderness months ago, and who now lives alone with her young daughter Sass (Morgana Davies) and taciturn son Bike (Finn Woodlock) - who have volunteered to host him in their home during the course of his research excursion. Shortly after arriving in Tasmania, Martin is accompanied to the edge of the wilds by Jack Mindy (Sam Neill), an old friend of Lucy's who has kept watch over her family and balks at the newcomer's decision to navigate the rough terrain unaccompanied. In the wake of a clash with hostile local loggers, Martin gradually begins to learn more about Lucy's family and develops a tenuous friendship with her two young children. But later, just as Martin begins to feel as if his goal is finally within reach, an unexpected development sends his mission into a tailspin and causes him to question the motivations behind capturing such a strange and majestic creature.
Martin, a mercenary, is sent from Europe by a mysterious biotech company to the Tasmanian wilderness on a hunt for the last Tasmanian tiger.
This Australian film, filmed mostly in Tasmania, stars the great character actor Willem Dafoe (in a rare leading role) as Martin David, the title character. David is engaged by a multinational corporation to track down the last surviving "Tasmanian Tiger" so that they may have exclusive rights to its DNA. David must do this under the noses of environmentalists trying to stop deforestation and the locals whose jobs and livelihoods rely on it. Masquerading as a scientist doing research, Martin finds himself quartered at the house of a local activist's widow (Frances O'Connor) and her two children (Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock.) Slowly, he finds himself entwined in their lives and finds a disturbing connection between his current employer and the late activist. Martin's contact in the community (Sam Neill) is wary of their growing relationship and sets things in motion that will have a devastating impact on all involved.
This is a beautiful, exciting film with nuanced performances from all the players. Dafoe's character doesn't say much, but his cragged face is as expressive a tool as his voice. Lengthy scenes are often dialogue-free, letting the surroundings and Martin's actions speak for themselves in a visual language. The juvenile performers are quite good, and Sam Neill is a welcome presence in any film. Part character study, part eco-thriller, the film does not beat you over the head with its environmental message. It manages to present somewhat of a balanced view of the debate between economy and environment (at least with regards to the problems of the locals. Multinational Corporations are ALWAYS evil.) PETA may take exception to Martin's final actions with regards to his original assignment, but after some thought they might be hard pressed to come up with any better solution. It's the kind of film that leads to great discussion and debate afterwards.
On the whole the film isn't exactly stunning, its an oddity really, Dafoe is sent into the outback of Tasmania to find the thought to be extinct Thylacine or Tasmanina Tiger after a few apparent sightings. He stays with a woman and her kids and helps get her life back on track and off medication due to her husband vanishing in the outback.
At the same time he of course gets very friendly with the woman and her kids, gets slightly tangled in local disputes between tree loggers and environmental groups against the loggers (of which the woman he stays with is part of) whilst also trying to solve the disappearance of her husband plus track a live Thylacine.
The problem with the film is it doesn't feel like its about anything in particular and it doesn't feel like there is any real conclusion at the end. Without trying to give the game away Dafoe does achieve his goals but doesn't do anything about it, he discovers what happens to the woman's husband but seems to do nothing, we're not quite sure exactly why the company hes working for wants him to find a Thylacine and at the end he does something which doesn't seem right, you don't know wether your on his side with his decision.
Dafoe is suppose to be a hunter, he tracks and survives in the wild, this we know, but seeing him roam the outback setting nasty steel traps and shooting mammals doesn't really sit right with me, he's suppose to be the 'hero' of the film looking after a lone woman and her kids but he doesn't really do anything other than kill animals and set traps, are we suppose to root for Dafoe's character?
The acting is superb with Dafoe and good old Sam Neill on form, the kids play their parts very well too but the plot is strange and jumbled and for lovers of wildlife it isn't quite what you expect. Well filmed, well crafted with lovely location work and a pretty real looking Tasmania Tiger in the finale (you know he finds it before you even begin to watch) but it seems down beat overall.
Willem Dafoe is outstanding as a methodical hunter that becomes increasingly conflicted.
Dafoe starts out as a clinical and calm professional but upon arrival in the stunning environment of Tasmania his cold exterior begins to fade and he starts to question his motivations. He has been arranged to board with O'Connor, a frail woman who lives with her two young children and has been numbed by medication ever since her husband disappeared. As Dafoe gets closer to the three he realises the patriarch's disappearance was no coincidence and he may be about to suffer the same fate.
Sam Neill gives a great low key performance as a would be suitor of O'Connor who may or may not be trustworthy. Dafoe is aging like a good cheese and this is his best turn since 1992's "Light Sleeper". It's the stunning yet foreboding landscape of Tasmania which is the real star though. Nettheim shoots it like a haunted house, half-glimpsed movements in bushes and crackling twigs lending an air of unseen menace.
The movie is based on a novel by Julia Leigh who wrote and directed the highly impressive "Sleeping Beauty" but it's essentially a remake of "The Third Man" with Dafoe as Joseph Cotten, O'Connor as Alida Valli and a Tasmanian Devil as Orson Welles. Like Leigh, Nettheim has proved with his debut that he's a film-maker of some promise.
To start, "The Hunter" has a certain underlying tension throughout that has less to do with Martin's quest, than with the aforementioned conflict. Both sides have valid points in their arguments in this film whose nuances allow it to sidestep any cliches in the story. While the loggers have worries about their jobs, the environmentalists are protecting the Tasmanian forest that quite possibly has unimaginable animals whose habitats are threatened. As such, the film captures the beautiful scenery wonderfully. While Martin simply wants to live a solitary existence of high culture, for which he does his odious job for, he cannot help but affect that environment or the humans he is forced to interact with. Plus, the movie actually makes excellent use of a classic rock song for a change, proving that Frances O'Connor knows how to make a great entrance.
Don't you hate it when a film grabs your attention and keeps it within its firm grasp for about an hour, and then just lets it go as if it were nothing; no big deal? Well, if you hate when that happens, it would be in your best interest to stay far, far away from Daniel Nettheim's "The Hunter". Adapted from a 1999 novel by Julia Leigh, everything about the movie looks good on paper, but most of those things have been translated rather awkwardly for the screen. The film is a bloated mess unsure of what it wants to be or where it wants to go, and yet it manages to keep us interested for a while. Perhaps because in films of a similar style, we're expecting some kind of payoff for the slow pacing in the form of a deep character study; but this film has too much on its mind. And in this case, too much can get in the way of just about everything else.
The hunter who goes by the name of Martin David (Willem Dafoe) is hired by a biotech company called Red Leaf to go to Tasmania so that he may bring back organ and tissue samples from a species said to be long extinct, the Tasmanian Tiger. He will temporarily stay at the home of a few complete strangers; two children - a boy (Finn Woodlock) and a girl (Morgana Davies) - and their mother Lucy (Frances O'Conner), who has been feeling ill as of late. The kids take no time in warming up to Martin, although he's got work to do. He must assemble his weapons and his traps (which are apparently illegal in Tasmania) and then head out into the woods to find the tiger. He will spend twelve days at a time in the wilderness and then return to the house.
He is lead into the woods by tour guide Jack Mindy (Sam Neill), who has a close relationship with Lucy's kids. Jack offers to remain with Martin for the remainder of the journey, but he prefers to work alone. We are treated to some truly beautiful scenes that highlight his survival as he must kill any edible wildlife to keep from going hungry and try to find the tiger, at all costs. This should have been the main plot of the film, since Martin will continue to venture back into the wilderness until he finds his rare animal, but instead we're given a few lame sub-plots to trudge through to get to the good stuff. For instance, Red Leaf gets directly involved with the task at hand; and Martin goes through a sort of transformation while bonding with Lucy and her kids.
This could have made for an interesting character study, but we've seen this type before and "The Hunter" doesn't really do anything unique with Martin himself. As I said, the sub-plots merely get in the way of the film's main point, and I'm not even entirely sure what that was. It seems to aspire to be a character study, a taut wilderness thriller, and an evocative mood piece. It does manage to establish a very strong atmosphere, and the camerawork is absolutely stunning (capturing all the mysterious beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness and its wildlife), but by the time Martin had gone back into the woods for the second time, I was getting tired of the routine and just wanted the plot to get a move on. I like slow-moving and suspenseful movies; this simply isn't one.
But I'll give it points for trying. Dafoe is about as brilliant as he always is, with the plot preventing him from getting the most out of his talents (although you can't deny he has a riveting screen presence). This is his movie, and he skillfully commands every scene he's in...which is pretty much every one. Character studies tend to focus on one character and disregard the rest; but this one doesn't even have a well-developed central character. Therefore, it's left feeling somewhat cold and distant; there isn't much emotional resonance, not even in the ending which possesses a certain whimsical quality, and I never found myself caring for the character(s). This is a well-crafted film but hardly a good one (in my opinion). People will probably refer to it as pointless and pretentious although I'll go on record saying that it isn't really either of those things if you think about it. But it does get ahead of itself with its ego. It wants to say more than it actually can, whilst giving us some pretty shit to look at. That's nice, but not nice enough.
With a beautiful Tasmania as a center piece, this brooding adaptation is quiet and moribund, perhaps conveying the lack of redemption for the players involved.
Somehow it lacks the aggression it promises as the movie is building up which as well may be the chink in the script.
However, in the end a very good film.