Cinema Review – The Hunter
Daniel Nettheim’s second feature film The Hunter is a slow burning thriller with a familiar premise: a lone man versus nature, a stranger entering a foreign place where not only the natives are reluctant to welcome him but the wildlife is desperate to eat him alive, too.
The film takes place in a rainy, grey Tasmania, lush with dark forests and rocky hills. Dafoe, who looks softer than usual with a beard but no less innately terrifying and intense, plays Martin, the American hunting expert who enters Australia with the job of hunting down the supposedly extinct Tasmanian Tiger, unbeknownst to the locals who assume he’s from “the university” and he’s there to study. During his stay, he lodges with a family whose father recently has gone missing in the woods, an actual university employee who is something of a free spirit, an eco warrior and whose house looks like a giant treehouse plotted on a vast field of unkempt land. His wife, predictably devastated by his disappearance, spends the first half of the film – when Martin arrives to stay with the family – doped up on prescription drugs, while her children have the run of the house that’s falling apart. And so begins Martin’s initial exploration of this alien land – where he actually plays the alien, fascinating to the children, threatening to the locals and, despite his preparation and skill, unfit for the environment.
So essentially there are a great number of things going on in The Hunter, thematically and narratively, and at times it feels like they’re not tied closely enough together. It’s wonderfully acted – you can’t fault Dafoe for his dedication, he’s extremely believable as this solitary man with a mysterious past, someone who isn’t wholly likeable but can carry a movie as the hero – or an anti-hero, depending on who’s side you’re on. We’re with Martin the entire time, from his trouble-with-the-locals to the times when he’s out there, hunting down a creature that no one knows for sure really exists. It would have fitted the film better had it dedicated itself to the man versus wild plot, as the blossoming relationship with his host family feels clunky and ill-fitting and far less interesting. Particularly as the disappearance of the father feels like a weak and unrewarding addition used as a tool to create some apparently interesting conspiracy plot. Without giving too much away, conspiracy rears its slightly misshapen head again towards the films climax, and instead of heaving a great sigh of relief, I found myself uttering frustration at the lack of resolution and a slightly tacky sentimental conclusion.
Nevertheless, The Hunter is certainly ambitious; Dafoe is one of Hollywood’s finest and it should be seen on that merit alone.
About The Author – Teri Williams
Teri is a former film student from Edinburgh and currently works in book publishing in London. She is a fan of bad taste films, horror, fantasy, science fiction and vintage teen comedy and has been described by her friends as a “proper nerd” and a human imdb. She can be found speaking nonsense under the twitter name @msenidcoleslaw and scribbling similar nonsense on her blog Enid’s Revenge
Have you seen this film? Are you a fan of Dafoe? Comment below…