Martin David (Willem Dafoe) is the kind of mercenary for whom being sent half way around the world to hunt an extinct animal is just another day at the office. Which is what happens when a faceless European corporation dispatches him to the dark side of Australia to collect DNA samples of the Tasmanian Tiger. He’s advised that reports of the animal’s death have been wildly exaggerated and, under the watchful eye of (Sam Neil), bunks in with widow Lucy (Frances O’Connor) and her young children. Locals, fearing yet another meddlesome greenie in their midst, don’t take kindly to the stranger. Small matter, David’s business is in the remote, unforgiving hinterland. Or so he thinks.

The Hunter is something of an existential experience that ultimately revolves around the spiritual awakening of David, rather than his pursuit of the famed creature. Conflict rests in the emerging relationship with Lucy, her mute son and her late husband, with angry timber workers, the corporation and, most significantly, David himself. This inner struggle with the cold identity of his profession and the force of an emerging humanity gives the film its heart, and an audience something to engage with. The Hunter is also a particularly handsome film. With cinematographer Robert Humphreys (Somersault), director Daniel Nettheim has crafted elegant, haunting images of an elegant, haunting landscape.

Where things unravel slightly is in the thinly sketched background from which these stories are expected to emerge. Leaving more questions than answers, an unwelcome avenue of niggling frustration is opened, one which is never fully dealt with. It’s an unfortunate distraction from an otherwise compelling film centred around Dafoe’s very compelling performance. The Hunter’s slow, deliberate nature will find a contended audience who are given a bonus in some late twists and a pleasingly unexpected conclusion.

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Willem Dafoe
Sam Neil
Frances O'Connor
Sullivan Stapleton

Daniel Nettheim

Wain Fimeri


M / 122 minutes

October 6, 2011
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moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks