Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Hunter

Hunting... for Everything

Rated: R   Language and brief violence
Release Date: April 6, 2012
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins

Director: Daniel Nettheim
Writers:  Wain Fimeri, Alice Addison, novel by Julia Leigh
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O'Conner, Sullivan Stapleton, Morgana Davies, Finn Woodlock

SYNOPSIS: A mercenary is contracted by a biotech company to travel to the Tasmanian wilderness to search and acquire possibly the last of the considered extinct Tasmanian tiger.

REVIEW: Daniel Nettheim, known mostly for directing television episodes such as Rush and K9, departs from his usual small screen fare to venture into the wilds of big screen cinema by directing an adaptation from the highly acclaimed novel of the same name written by Julia Leigh. Originally adapted by television documentary writer Wain Fimeri (Charles Bean's Great War, Revealing Gallipoli) with a screenplay by Alice Addison (The Silence), Nettheim raises the cinematic stakes for himself and the writers' work in an effort to give the story the justice it deserves.
Mercenary Martin David (Willem Dafoe, Daybreakers) is contracted by a representative of the Red Leaf biotech corporation to travel from Europe to the forested Tasmanian mountains to track down the supposedly extinct Tasmanian tiger, based on sketchy reported sightly of the animal in the area. Setting his base of operations at the base of the mountains at a cabin where the family of a missing, previously contracted scientist lives, Martin deals with doped-up mother Lucy (Frances O'Connor, Blessed), daughter Sass (Morgana Davies, The Tree) and quiet son Bike (Finn Woodlock) as well as trying to pick up the scarce trail of the elusive animal he was contracted to find. Jack Mindy (Sam Neill, The Vow) assists as the family's caretaker and liaison between Martin and the 'University' that Martin is contracted with, providing some supplies to the Armstrong family and directions and advice to Martin.

Based on the 1999 Julia Leigh novel, The Hunter sets a lone man against the sharp and bitter elements of the Tasmanian countryside, pitting him against the vast beauty and danger of the landscape in search of of a creature that may not even exist in the modern era outside of stories and beer-addled bragging. Setting traps and snares, surveying the landscape, and following diminished tracks and trails, Martin uses the extent of his mercenary skills to fulfill his contract to Red Leaf. In addition, Martin must contend with children who fend for themselves as their mother wastes away in a medically induced stupor brought on my the disappearance of her scientist husband. Not only that, but the local logging community looks upon Martin with disdain, fear, and amusement, wondering if his search for the extinct mammal will bear fruit. And the question of why Red Leaf takes so many precautions and risks to capture the Tasmanian tiger, and the blood and tissue samples the corporation requests Martin to retrieve from the animal, keeps Martin on edge and in additional danger.

The film is lush in drama and in epic rolling beauty. Defoe's Martin strides confidently, but inconsequentially, through shots of dark mountains, golden high grasses, and shimmering reflective pools of water fed by sparking mountain waterfalls. In some wonderful stationary camera shots, we barely register Martin's movements across the frame at all. As Martin finds himself taking care of Sass and Bike, both self-imposed nicknames, he also realizes that the Tasmanian tiger is personally more important to him than he believes the animal to be to Red Leaf.

Willem Dafoe is as fine an actor as he has ever been. His role of Martin David is no exception. As his character spends time in solitude chasing a mythical mammal in the Tasmanian mountains, Dafoe commands attention with every movement and facial expression. Sam Neill, as Jack Mindy, rides the fine line between careful guardianship of the Armstrong family and of his homestead. Frances O'Connor embodies the wife and mother who goes from the pits of despair to glimmers of hope. Even newcomers Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock only add to the grand, but quiet drama that unfolds.

Fine performances, a superior story, intriguing drama, and picturesque vistas set The Hunter as a 'should see' film. Its quiet, mounting drama will grab your interest and its beautifully crafted camera work will capture your spirit.

WORTH: Matinee or Rental

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