Film Review: The Hunter
Until now Australia’s notable exports may for many be Fosters, Neighbours or the chain of Walkabout bars, but The Hunter may well change all that. Set entirely amongst the wilderness of Tasmania and starring Willem Dafoe in a rare but well deserved leading role, The Hunter depicts the journey of Martin David, a hunter who is hired to track down the elusive (and, according to many, extinct) Tasmanian tiger for an unnamed biotech company. Working under the pretence of being a university researcher, David stays with the Armstrong family who are still grieving for the loss of Mr Armstrong who went missing over a year ago. Soon David begins to encounter various problems in his ‘assignment’ which he soon realizes isn’t quite what it seems.
There are various aspects of this film, directed by Daniel Nettheim,that really stand out, the main one being the skilful acting, This is particularly applicable to lead protagonist Willem Dafoe who plays brooding Martin brilliantly. From his weather-beaten looks to his gravelly voice, he shines as the merciless hunter. Frances O’Connor also gives a convincing and enthralling performance as the drugged up and grieving mum of the family with whom David stays, whilst Morgana Davis is entertaining as her opinionated daughter.
One of the main draws of this film is the wonderful cinematography by Robert Humphreys; breath-taking shots of the wild Tasmanian landscape feature heavily in the film and make up for the sometimes slow pace of the narrative, which at times can lack action. Humphreys really manages to bring alive the 1999 novel (written by Julia Leigh) on which the film is based.
One thing that is certain throughout the film, however, is that viewers will need a certain degree of suspension of disbelief to really enjoy this film. There are various elements that don’t seem quite convincing, such as the fact that Martin David lodges with a local family, especially one who is so ‘messed up’, instead of staying in a hotel or somewhere more private, or the unconvincing ending which seems morally dubious at best. David’s sudden change of personality and development of a heart when around the Armstrong children is quite implausible and seems to throw up the same old clichés which one may hope would be absent. The problem of predictability is present throughout the film, and although the unique plot helps cancel it out, it’s not a hugely exciting film but more a very enjoyable, intriguing journey that can be valued most for its dazzling cinematography.
The film creates a good level of mystery with limited but nontheless enjoyable action, but overall it can be a little too slow at times. However, the fantastic acting, beautiful cinematography and interesting premise makes up for this and ensures that The Hunter come up trumps as a solid, skilfully crafted movie.