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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Aug 8: The Hunter


Aug 8: The Hunter

"Martin, a mercenary, is sent from Europe by a mysterious biotech company to the Tasmanian wilderness on a hunt for the last Tasmanian tiger."
Directed by: Daniel Nettheim, Rated: R, 102 minutes

Australian cinema has been on the rise in the last couple of years. The country is continuing to produce better and better films, with a list including the underrated masterpiece, Animal Kingdom, as well as the vampire flick Daybreakers, Red Hill, and now, The Hunter. The Australian outback is its own character and these films use the setting to great advantage, creating expansive worlds that blend isolation and beauty. The Hunter, of all these films, uses the environment the greatest, showing how far removed the characters involved in the film are from the rest of the world, and that the slightest mistake leads to a most certain demise. It's a great reminder of how beautiful, yet dangerous, the Outback is and shows the psychological toll it can take on a man. 

Isolate and alone, on a seemingly futile journey, a man can change. 

The Hunter's plot is not the most complicated, but there's a lot stuffed into 102 minutes. Martin David (Willem Dafoe) is a mercenary that's hired by Red Leaf, a company that's both mysterious and dangerous. Martin is hired to track down the mythical Tasmanian tiger, an animal thought to be extinct, and retrieve its DNA. He's told that he must retrieve the genetic material as quickly as possible, because there is sure to be many different parties seeking out the rare beast. Martin makes his way to a small Tasmanian town, where he's looked at as a dangerous stranger that's threatening to take the jobs away from the small town's population. He's immediately looked upon as something that must be expelled, and his interactions with the citizens turns violent almost immediately. Martin's given a room at the Armstrong household, where a small family, a boy, his sister, and his mother (Frances O'Connor) live. Martin begins to bond with the family during his stay, and they bring him in like one of their own, welcoming them with stories and music. Martin makes many expeditions out to the wilderness, searching for the tiger, and every time he returns to the home, he finds himself more involved with the troubled family. The film is simple in its exposition, but still feels like there's a lot going on. Everything unravels at a slower pace than you'd expect, but the revelations do give much more depth to the characters. 

The Tasmanian tiger is one of the most dangerous animals to exist in the last century. It's only fitting its once hunting ground be the deadly Australia.

Along with the setting, the star of the film is Willem Dafoe, who proves that he's one of the greatest working today. The Hunter provides one of, if not the best performance Dafoe has given in his career. The film uses very little dialogue and for a large portion of it, it's just Dafore tracking the beast through the harsh wilderness. Dafoe has an incredibly powerful presence that adds an intensity to the film you could only get from him. At first, Martin appears as a man who does a job and moves onto the next, but as his interaction with the Armstrong family grows, the layers of his character begin to show. The Hunter also has very strong performances from its supporting characters, especially from the two children played by Finn Woodlock and Morgana Davis. Sam Neil also shows up for a small, but important role, and in his brief moments on screen, you're reminded how good he can be. The beautiful Frances O'Connor plays the struggling Armstrong matriarch, and while her role is much smaller than the rest, she has a quiet strength about her that you can't help but admire.

Every time I see Neil in a hat like that, I hear the Jurassic Park theme song. 

The Hunter is a superb, beautiful little film. The story isn't profound or even all that impressive, but the performances that come out of the movie turn The Hunter into something worth watching. Dafoe steals the show as Martin and gives one of the best performances of the year. The Tasmanian wilderness transforms the film into something that is not easy to forget and reminds you that it's something that needs to be respected and revered. The Hunter is as mythical as the beast at the center of the film and it's hard to argue that most of the movie represents something greater than what is simply just on the screen. While The Hunter is not for everyone, it's worth the time and effort of tracking it down. 

The Good:
the mythical hunt for thought to be extinct animal proves to be a lot more interesting than you'd think
The Better:
the Australian environment molding the film into something gorgeous, with incredible camerawork capturing the intricacies and dangers of the setting
The Best:
Willem Dafoe reminded the world how powerful of an actor he can be, even if his role has very little dialogue

Overall: 8.0/10


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