Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright
You know a film must be special when it stays with you for days after seeing it. The Hunter, starring Willem Dafoe, is one of those movies for me. Yes, it’s very slow moving most of the time, but the gorgeous cinematography and Dafoe’s intriguing performance held my rapt attention throughout. Playing a mercenary hired by a bio-tech company to find a supposedly extinct animal, Dafoe excels at drawing us into this secret mission, even when we are not sure what his character will do if he finds the elusive Tasmanian tiger.
“I’m a scientist,” Martin David (Dafoe) tells anyone in Tasmania who asks about what he does for a living. That’s his cover. But most of the people living there are suspicious of him anyway. They call him “Greenie” and treat him with antagonism -- except for Jack Mindy (Sam Neill), Lucy Armstrong (Frances O’Connor) and her two young children (Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock). Jack helps Martin get situated in Lucy’s house while she’s grieving for her lost husband. And the kids try to orient him to their far-from-satisfactory living conditions during his “nature study” stay. Although Martin is a loner, he can’t help feeling sorry for the youngsters and for Lucy’s sad predicament. His increasing emotional involvement with this little family results in unforeseen complications for all of them.
However, Martin is the ultimate professional at what he does, so he goes off into the forests and mountains of Tasmania for days at a time to gather information about the valuable animal he seeks. It’s during these solitary forays that viewers are treated to beautiful Tasmanian panoramas. In fact, Robert Humphries earned a well-deserved 2012 Best Cinematography Award from the Australia Film Institute for his impressive work on this unusual film.
Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire) seems to transform himself into Martin David here. The beard definitely helps. It’s a good look for this versatile actor. Dafoe makes Martin a likeable character despite the nature of his job. He’s also quite believable in scenes of Martin worrying about others who might be following him and when changes slowly occur in his outlook on life.
The Hunter, directed by Daniel Nettheim (Angst) from Alice Addison’s screenplay based on Wain Femeri’s adaptation of Julia Leigh’s novel, left me with a heightened concern for animals on the endangered species list. After watching this movie, I also now harbor increased antipathy for people who will do anything to perfect even more deadly weapons.
(Released by Magnolia Pictures and rated “R” for language and brief violence.)
For more information about The Hunter, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.