If this was a series on the National Geographic channel, I’d definitely watch it. Or at least try to.
Martin (Willem Dafoe), a skilled mercenary is sent to the jungles of Tasmania to bring evidence of a creature known to be extinct, the famed Tasmanian Tiger. Posing as a scientist, he arrives at the house of a family whose father has become missing hunting for the same animal.
Nature thrillers aren’t the best kind of thrillers out there. ‘The Grey’ was pretty good but usually, these kinds of thrillers just end up being uninteresting without any real thrills. This is a little bit in between.
I actually don’t even think you can categorize this as a thriller because it’s basically all about a man finding something inside of himself to give the film this character-based drama feel, but then have this thriller premise build around it as well. Director Daniel Nettheim did a great job here with setting the feel and atmosphere of this flick. Many scenes are just dedicated to total silence where we see Dafoe in the woods making traps, setting up, and doing all of this other cool, hunting stuff but all to the sounds of nothing else other than the birds and wind. There’s a very placid feel to this whole film that may take awhile to get used to but it still works and keep you interested as to what’s going to happen next with this dude.
Let me also not forget to mention that this film is very beautiful to look at but not in a pretty way. I have never seen Australia look this certain way in a film before than it does here. There are so many shots of the dangerous and dark forest that Dafoe goes into just about everyday and they add a lot more to the mood than anything else. I never thought that this forest was dangerous but then again, I never thought it was a happy place with Care Bears skipping and dancing everywhere either. Just a very mysterious and strange place to be in. Thanks cinematography!
Despite how good the cinematography and pace may be, the film still has its problems when it tries to be a character-based drama. Everything in the woods worked, but when Dafoe started hanging out with this family and getting attached to them, the film really does falter into just trying to finding more ways to have us sympathize with this dude more. Since the movie is so quiet and placid, the scenes that are supposed to be very emotional and touching don’t do either of these things. They are just sort of there to provide more of a background for our dude and even though I don’t mind a film trying to develop its character no matter how mysterious or strange he may be, at least try to do it in a way that isn’t so obvious.
Other than the moments in the forest, this film also doesn’t have any real tension. The real life tension between Green activists and tree loggers is here but they show up only to bring more tension to this flick and it doesn’t do much at all. It’s an important rivalry to show, and maybe a lot better to show in a documentary, but here, it seems unneeded as if the film couldn’t rely on the scenes in the forest to bring tension to this flick. Damn, I never realized how much I liked the scenes of just Dafoe in the forest.
Willem Dafoe is definitely the right choice for this quiet and mysterious character Martin. Dafoe in almost flick he does, has an engaging screen presence where you just can’t take your eyes off of him and you want to know more and more about him, which this film tries to do but sadly fails. Martin doesn’t talk much but you can see all of Dafoe’s emotions pour right through the looks on his face and proves that he’s one of those rare actors that can say plenty without saying anything much at all. Great performance from Dafoe and any lesser actor would have just totally made Martin one of those strong, silent types.
Frances O’Connor is pretty good as Lucy, the chick that Martin comes to live with, and gives her character a very deep sadness to her even though she does start to lighten up a bit by the end. Sam Neill is also good as Jack, a guy who seems a lot more mysterious than Martin. Neill is great at playing these very sly characters that you just don’t know if you can trust or not and he’s no different here even though this character does end up being a little bit more human by the end then you expect. Also, it’s great to finally here Neill in his Australian accent once again. Small cast, but effective when needed.
Consensus: The Hunter features a very slow, but melodic pace, with great performances from the small cast and beautiful cinematography. However, when it steps away from the forest, the film tries too hard to get emotional on us and it just ends up being more forced than anything else.