Title: The Hunter
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neil, Morgana Davies, Finn Woodlock, Frances O’Connor
The Hunter, on paper, is just a story about a man who is hired to do a job. Willem Dafoe is that man, and he is contracted to go into the Australian wilderness to find, and essentially kill, the legendary Tasmanian tiger. Catch is the majority of people believe the creature to be extinct.
Dafoe descends on the extremely small town, whose people aren’t too enthused having specialized hunters looking for their local wildlife legend, and takes up shelter in a shanty owned by a mother (Frances O’Connor) and her two young candid children. A bond is forming between Dafoe and the family, yet the town’s more-or-less authority, played by Sam Neil, quietly keeps a close eye on his actions.
While Dafoe can make any subject matter interesting with or without a supporting cast, the story is kind of stagnant. It has a bunch of reflective moments and it does a solid job chronicling Dafoe’s agenda, but the tone plays similar to flicks such as 2010’s The American. So those looking for gripping sequences that could involve dealing with the locals or the hunt itself, may be displeased and therefore, feel a sense of boredom.
Basically, this is a nice product to study at a film school. There’s a ton of subtle nuances within Dafoe’s performance and the cinematography. The sequences in the woods, where Dafoe spends a lot of his time slowly progressing to a possible lead on the elusive tiger, are patient and allow the viewer to explore the arena. However, this repetitive execution, though necessary, can be tough to stick with. Fortunately, the running time is roughly 90 minutes and balances these said sequences out with Dafoe interacting with his talented young co-stars (Morgana Davies & Finn Woodlock). There innocent questions and actions – spiced up with a few choice cuss words – toward Dafoe provides snippets of comedy to break up the gloomy mood of the environment. Plus, the capturing of the area through the lens allows one to better understand the landscape of that part of Australia.
If one can survive getting through the methodical bouncing back-n-forth between Dafoe in the woods and his near-quiet interaction with the family he stays with, then the climactic moment pays off fairly well. The journey may not be exhilarating, but it can keep your mind pondering.
Overall, The Hunter is subtle adventure piece that stays grounded in reality on every level. If seeing an animal meet its demise bothers you, avoid this like a hooker at a townie-bar in Alabama. And yes, I may be speaking from experience. (Needed to work in at least one funny line).