The Hunter, 2011.
Directed by Daniel Nettheim.
Starring Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Morgana Davies, Frances O’Connor, Sullivan Stapleton, Callan Mulvey, Jacek Koman and Dan Wyllie.
A mercenary American hunter is hired by a shadowy biotech organisation to travel to Tasmania and investigate sightings of the Tasmanian tiger, a species previously thought extinct.
The Hunter is a terrifically shot and moody, dark, and atmospheric independent picture the likes of which come about far too infrequently in English-speaking cinema. A character piece and thriller taking place in a seldom-seen (on film) area of the world (Tasmania), The Hunter is boosted by a superbly understated performance from Willem Dafoe that matches anything he’s done in his illustrious career so far. It’s about time this man won an Oscar.
The film’s palette is grey, green, and brown and has a stone cold icy blue tint as chilling as the air in those mountain where Dafoe’s hunter tracks and hunts his prey – the seemingly extinct Tasmania Tiger. Dafoe is sent to provide evidence of its existence, but he’s not the only one and the tension grows as he makes friends with the family of a man lost in the wilderness. The scenes between the hunter and the family (wife and two children) make a comforting mirror to the harsh woodlands he searches, and he forges a relationship that is missing from his own life. The hunter is a loner, only searching for others like him to prove some sort of life. There is a twist at the end of the film that is not seen from the first act (like so many are) which gives The Hunter a New Wave feel, back when films were not scared to go in a direction in which the audience may not like but felt true to the story. You could image Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, or Jack Nicholson in the role,and that is a major testament to Dafoe’s credibility as a leading man in this size and budget of a film.
This is a fantastic slow burning thriller of which is rarely seen today with a fantastic lead performance and a script which is selective with its lines; it isn’t the kind of film which is spoon-fed to you and is all the better for it. Such as shame this has taken the best part of a year to come to UK cinemas (it’s now out on DVD in the US) and will come and go without barely a dent in the box-office. This is potentially a top-10 film for the end of the year.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★