Film Review – The Hunter

The Hunter (M)

Directed by: Daniel Nettheim

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O’Connor

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright


A movie about a loner creeping through the Tasmanian woods looking for a creature that may or may not exist? Doesn’t really lend itself to an abundance of cheap thrills on a Saturday night. If that is what you were expecting from this often leaden piece you may want to keep looking. Director Daniel Nettheim slows things right down here taking more time with the characters than the mythical Tasmanian Tiger one of them is trying to capture.

Based on the novel of the same name by Julia Leigh, The Hunter follows hired hand Martin David (Willem Dafoe) from the luxuries of European hotels to the isolated woods of Tasmania to hunt for an animal that is supposed to be extinct. Apparently there have been unproven sightings up in the hills and if captured, could be worth a lot of money to certain people.

Martin bunks with depressed and doped up Lucy Armstrong (Frances O’Connor) and her two children Sass (Morgana Davies) and Bike (Finn Woodlock). Their father went out into the woods and never came back and their mother has had a tough times dealing with it. As Lucy sleeps day and night, Martin slips in and makes the accommodation in the neglected cabin livable before he gets to work.

We observe Martin as he lays his traps and waits for a possible sighting of the animal then as he bonds with the struggling family. There are no great surprises that a couple of kids who miss their Dad would become attached to this man or that their mother would find some solace in having a man around the house. But it does offer some tender and touching moments. When Lucy mistakes Martin for her husband in drug induced haze, it is powerful.

Dafoe is definitely watchable during long, wordless sequences and it is fascinating to watch him bring this character to life and see him operate in the wilderness. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much going on under the surface of this slow-moving drama until the stunning conclusion. If only the rest of the film made us think as much as the ending does.

However, this is a much preferred version of a story about man hunting a mythical creature than any Hollywood studio script writing machine could churn out. Could you imagine it if this went through a dozen re-writes? The critter would have three rows of razor-sharp teeth and would make its way through a handful of scantily clad teens. The horror.




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