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Marina Antunes [DVD News 07.03.12] Australia thriller drama



As the story of Daniel Nettheim's The Hunter started to unfold, I couldn't help but think that this was a great companion piece to Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton. Where as Gilroy's film is all about corporate espionage within the confines of the boardrooms of corporate America, The Hunter looks at the grittier side of corporate greed on a more savage, hands-on level where lives are expendable in the search for the mighty dollar. In this case, the story is very personal, tracking the experience of one man but the fact that it all ties back to a corporation seeking the mighty buck made me angry.

Nettheim and his crew certainly build the story to take full advantage of that hate, never letting the audience forget that a company is pulling the strings but The Hunter is first and foremost the story of a man coming to grips with his job and how a family changes his perspective on life.


Willem Dafoe is Martin, a hunter who spends his working days hunting. His trade obviously pays well and judging from his taste in music, his obsession with cleanliness and the natural way he seems comfortable in a suit and expensive surroundings are at odds with the job that pays for his comfortable if obviously vacant living. The music and his obsession with keeping things organized is a little overplayed but it's a slight fault in an otherwise tight script. It's a job that has him in the wild for weeks at a time, faring the elements in search of, in this case, an elusive animal which may or may not be extinct.

Though much of the film follows Martin in the wild, the emotional growth of the character only seems to develop when he returns to humanity and interacts with the family who are putting him up. Martin finds himself warming up to the children and to their mother Lucy (beautifully played by Frances O'Connor). It soon becomes apparent that Martin isn't the first to look for the tiger and as the mystery begins to unravel, it's obvious that the family's connection to the Tiger goes deeper than curiosity. Mixed into this already complicated plot are the side issues of logging, nature preservation and even the loss of a loved one, all of which play in the corners of the film and weigh heavy on the story while never taking centre stage. It's an amazing balancing act which is expertly manoeuvred by Wain Fimeri and Alice Addison's adaptation of Julia Leigh's novel.

The Hunter could easily have fallen apart from the sheer weight of the script but Dafoe expertly navigates the emotional depths of the character in such a way that it takes only minutes of interaction with the other characters to build a rapport. It certainly helps that the children with whom Martin spends most of his time when in civilization, played by Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock, are both outstanding (particularly Woodlock whose character is mute). The quality of talent allows for Nettheim's film to spend a significant amount of time with Martin in the outback and the results are almost like a second, altogether separate movie. I love the scenes of Dafoe walking through the bush, setting traps and searching for his pray and there's something both majestic and intimidating about so much open wilderness.

The Hunter isn't as explosive as some of the films we've been seeing out of Australia of late but it certainly deserves a spot among the country's notable exports. It's a dark and subtle tale of redemption all wrapped up into a movie that also makes some poignant observations on the environment and the cost, both moral and financial, of business.

The Hunter is available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, July 3rd.

DVD Extras: A forty minute making of featurette which includes character studies, the adaptation of the story, casting and shooting of the film.

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Charles Widmore (5 years ago) Reply

Excellent film. The locations are almost otherworldly, the story is familiar and yet different at the same time, the two child actors are wonderful, as is Dafoe, and the ending is both sad and heartwarming, with a complex dynamic of emotions and reasoning. All in all a nice piece of cinematic storytelling.


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