The Hunter

Year: 2011
Production Co: Screen Australia
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Writer: Julia Leigh
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O'Connor

Years ago I had a fantastic idea for an action/adventure story set in the dark woods and valleys of Tasmania as a group of scientists race against the clock to find and capture the last Tasmanian Tiger. Since I wasn't a film director, didn't have any money and was all of 13, I've always hoped someone would make that movie.

This wasn't it. It wasn't exciting or action packed enough to be an adventure movie, and it was too empty and dour to be an effective drama, which seemed to be the tone it was going for. The sombre tone in the script, the landscape and across Dafoe's face as hero Martin made me think it was a morality tale full of subtext about survival, mystery and preservation, but if it was that was all lost of me too.

He plays a professional hunter almost totally devoid of personality, sent by a biotech company to the wilderness of Tasmania to find, trap and return with the Tasmanian Tiger that's still said to inhabit the area after anecdotal legends of sightings among the locals.

He rents the spare room in a remote house where the two precocious kids take to him immediately while their comatose mother (O'Connor) sleeps all day, doped up on prescription drugs to deal with the grief of her activist husband going missing several months before.

Martin nurses the woman back to health and comes to love them all in his own quiet way, and it's motifs like the speakers hanging in the trees that made me think there was something there I just wasn't getting. He also runs afoul of the local loggers who assume he's another do-gooding greenie come to shut them down, and I was never sure if the story belonged out in the bush with Martin tracking the elusive beast or back at home with him learning how to be human. Neither strand was satisfactorily developed or resolved and they both felt like subplots that belonged with stronger stories.

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