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The Hunter

The Hunter

What he said:

He

I probably shouldn’t own up to this, but we’ve all done it, so who gives a shit? Whether it be a book, album cover, or movie poster, we’ve all “judged a book by its cover” at one point or another in our life. Come on, admit it, you know you have too. I had never heard of this movie before, but the poster caught my eye one day. There’s something so simple, but captivating about it. It is nothing flashy, but still manages to grab your attention. It’s a very modest, but powerful image. It makes Willem Dafoe’s character look like a force to be reckoned with. It might sound stupid, but that’s marketing at its finest. The poster made me say, “Ooh what’s that?” It did its job. It got me to read the synopsis and that made me want to see the movie.

The Hunter is about a mercenary (Willem Dafoe) who is hired to travel to Tasmania and investigate sightings of the Tasmanian tiger, which is thought to be extinct. Red Leaf, a military biotech company, believes the animal holds the key to furthering their weapons research. Martin (Dafoe) is hired by Red Leaf to go to Tasmania, collect tissue and organ samples, and eliminate any further evidence of the species, if it even exists.

The Hunter

Martin is an old veteran. No specifics about the kind of work he typically does are given, but you get the impression he gets things done, and generally doesn’t care what he does as long as he’s getting paid. He meets a colleague an airport in Paris to cement the details. Red Leaf wants another mercenary to go along with Martin, but he refuses. He’s a loner and can’t have someone tagging along and getting in his way.

When Martin arrives in Tasmania, he meets his local contact, Jack Mindy (Sam Neill). Jack finds him a room in a house near the mountains where the sightings have taken place. The house is owned by a single mother named Lucy (Frances O’Connor). Lucy has two kids. Katie (Morgana Davies) is a fiery and curious young gal. Jamie is a quiet boy who seems to be in his own little world. All of them are under the impression that Martin is a university professor doing research on the Tasmanian devil.

Lucy’s house is not ideal base of operations. It would appear that she sleeps most days away because she’s addicted to pills. As a result, the place has no electricity or running water. Martin heads into town to see if he can find a room. He stops by a pub and asks for a room, but is denied. He is also told that he should leave town. The pub is a watering hole for the local loggers and it seems those fellas don’t like outsiders. So, he heads on back over to Lucy’s place and attempts to make the best of the situation. He fixes a few things around the house, so that he can have a proper working environment. He needs access to his computer files and some other things to complete his mission. Soon after that he heads off to the mountains for several days.

The Hunter

Jack takes Martin to a location where the devils frequently roam. On their way, they run into the loggers, but Jack is able to diffuse the issue. When they arrive at their destination, they discover a camp of environmentalists. Jack informs Martin that the loggers and the environmentalists are in the middle of a little war with one another (the loggers don’t really seem to like anybody other than themselves). Being environmentalists, they want to stop the loggers from cutting down any more trees. The loggers see this as a threat to their livelihood. Martin, not wanting Jack to know he’s hunting tigers, needs to find a way and ditch Jack, so that he doesn’t jeopardize the mission. Jack is reluctant, but eventually leaves, and seems offended. 

When Martin arrives back at Lucy’s, she thanks him for all that he has done around the house. Life has not been easy on her since her husband died, so having someone around to pitch in is a blessing. The kids also seem to take a liking to him. The closer he gets to them all, the more mystery is added to the situation. For starters, it turns out her husband was one of the environmentalists. Additionally, he starts to pick up on some quirks about Jamie. He’s not just a quiet kid, but refuses to speak. He also starts drawing pictures of what looks like a Tasmanian tiger.

That’s not all either. Martin is really getting heat from his employer. They want results and they want them now. The loggers are also really on his ass too, which has interfered with his mission. They hate outsiders to begin with, but when they realize he is staying with Lucy – whose husband was one of the environmentalists – the view him as a legitimate threat. Jack also seems to be jealous of his recent bond with Lucy and the kids. When her husband died, Jack took it upon himself to look after them, and he feels threatened by Martin’s presence.

The Hunter

This movie isn’t made for everyone. It’s a very small-scale movie with a very deliberate pace. There is a lot of tension between different parties but it’s not what I’d call an action-packed movie. That’s ok with me though because this is a thriller and not an action movie. Personally I loved the pace. I found myself very interested in what was going on. There was a lot of buildup and I thought it made for some great suspense. There might not be enough going on for some people, but I really enjoyed it. I found it to be both tense and intriguing. I found the way the movie unfolded to be very true-to-life.

Plus, I felt the payoff was worth it. The buildup was great. I really wanted to know what was going to happen next and when I found out, I was impressed with how it all unfolded. I didn’t expect to feel the way I did. It was pretty powerful stuff.

Dafoe turned in a really top-notch performance. Martin isn’t exactly a great guy, and sometimes following a character like that can be challenging, but he delivered. The kids were also quite good. They were two very different personality types and each did a great job at portraying these characters. There are so many child actors out there who are not very good (hard to blame them being new to the craft), but they were like seasoned vets. Frances O’Connor turned in a very subtle, but appropriate performance. The character was not a huge presence in the movie, but she turned in exactly the type of performance for that level of screen time. Sam Neill was solid as well. You never really know what to make of his character and he keeps you guessing right up until the end.

This is a beautifully shot movie too. Tasmania has some awesome scenery. I find myself wanting to go to see these dense forests in person. So many movies these days are filmed inside studio and use too much CGI (and bad CGI too). It was refreshing to see some real locations and some stunning ones at that.

Rating: Thumbs up. One of the best movies I've seen in a while.

This movie review was given the He said, She said seal of approval on February 16, 2013.