Friday, June 15, 2012

The Hunter and Finding Both Terror and Tragedy: A Movie Review

Director: Daniel Nettheim.

Writers: Julia Leigh, Alice Addison, and Wain Fimeri.

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O'Connor, Callan Mulvey, and Sullivan Stapleton.

The Hunter is a film that will likely create some strong emotions in viewers. There is a haunting soundtrack that fills some of the painful scenes. Much of that pain is seen by Martin played by Willem Dafoe. He is a man in search of the last remaining Tasmanian Tiger. His dealings with bipedal creatures are perhaps more dangerous than hunting this elusive beast.

The film begins with Martin contracted to find the tiger in the deep Tasmanian brush. A pharmaceutical company wants the creature's DNA for research and study. The clash between capitalism and preservation begins early. Martin then heads out on his hunting trip after meeting with the Armstrong family. The father of the clan is missing and the mother is too depressed from grief to wake. The children run about unsupervised. And, Martin tries to help; but this story is about the hunt. Just who is being hunted?

This film asks a lot of questions and viewers will have to search for the answers. For instance, who does the title of the film refer to? During the film, Martin is hunted by another. A confrontation looms. Also, the Tasmanian Tiger stalks Martin in the latter half of the film. Also stalked are the Armstrongs. Who is behind their murders? Most will figure out the answer to this question, but the film's narrative allows for interpretation.

Less open to interpretation is the ability of The Hunter to tug at heartstrings. To see a family hurting from the loss of their father is difficult to watch. If that was not enough, local loggers, out of work, threaten to kill the remaining family members. A neighbour (Sam Neill) is caught between the loggers and the struggling family. The ending is unusually sombre and the music amplifies the difficult emotions. This film will cause some sadness as the tragedy onscreen unfolds. This is not a light movie and the drama is truly evocative.

Some of that deep emotion comes from the conflict in the film. Martin must deal with the out of work townsfolk who believe he is there to stop logging in the area. His true purpose is kept in secret. As well, Martin must compete with the National Parks Service to find the last remaining tiger. A fellow hunter tracks his every movement and gunfire is a warning of what is to come.

Thus, a set of themes begin to emerge in the film. The first involves expansion versus conservation. The loggers want to tear deeper into the Tasmanian forest while local environmentalists want to preserve the natural habitat. Greed seems to push events forward and towards even more conflict. Another theme emerges. The first scene involves Martin talking with his employer. The employer states: "it must be nice not to need anyone." Martin likes to work alone. Yet, the final scenes shows a character arc. Martin does need someone.

The character arc, themes, haunting music, beautiful cinematography, and emotional appeal create for one of the better films to come out this year. The Hunter is an exceptional movie. And fans of the mysterious will find themselves with lots to savour here. The Hunter is a slow build to a stirring conclusion. Although the film's central message is obscure, this movie brings together several quality film elements to create for a thrilling and sometimes melancholy narrative.

The Hunter has been released on video-on-demand through iTunes and other VOD platforms. This film fan would recommend that cinephiles of all backgrounds look for and watch this quality feature. This is a tale told with a masterful voice and The Hunter will stick with you long after the credits roll. And perhaps some will want to see this film again to answer some of the challenging questions asked by the story.

Overall: 8 out of 10.

The film's fan page is here:

The Hunter Fan Page

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