Sunday, August 12, 2012

"The Hunter" (2011) - Movie Review

“The Hunter” which could have easily been an unnecessary annoying slow turmoil of a mercenary in the hunt for a last existing Tasmanian Tiger, ends being a calm emotional journal of a lonely man. Martin David (Willem Dafoe) is that man who gets hired to hunt and bring blood, flesh and other samples of a one Tasmanian Tiger. He agrees without a question as it is not of his business. In the video archives taken in the early thirties, the animal looks like a cross between a wold and a hyena. No wonder they called it as Tasmanian Wolf from what Wiki says. This is not a film about someone consistently in the woods trying to outsmart this rare being into submission that methodically would kill. Instead it is the backdrop and the backbone, it is a repeating expression in a poem and finally becomes a unexplainable emotional response.

This Australian film directed by Daniel Nettheim lays out this tale without any kind of punctuation. It begins in a modern city and then moves instantaneously to the gorgeous Tasmania. With woods spread like ocean, Martin finds his temporary new home where he is greeted by a vocal and energetic kid Sass (Morgana Davies) and her brother Bike (Finn Woodlock). The house is a wreck with no power, dirty tub and nothing of an existence of a happy living. Their mother Lucy (Frances O’Connor) is grieving for the husband’s disappearance in the woods. To Martin this is not his concern. He tries to find a new place only to be met with resistance and hatred from the locals as they seem to believe he is with the environmentalists stopping the deforestation thereby making them jobless. Lucy’s husband Jarrah seem to have been the wrong books with the locals too.

One has to talk about the appearance of Willem Dafoe and the attire he goes along. Lean, seasoned and thoroughly chiseled is his body. He takes good care of his rugged beard and suits up with the hunting attire like a perfectly fitted glove. He has the most focussed look and when he gets into the woods setting up traps and waiting for the tiger to be trapped, he shows patience without even having to add intense scenes. The suspense though is there in seeing this mystical species, is underplayed purposefully. Except for one moment, there is no hurried motion or intense chases scenes. When it does happen, those are the spontaneous and effective 10 seconds of chase one would encounter.

“The Hunter” which begins as this dark tale of this lone mercenary trying to find an animal turns into him forming a connection with the family robbed of happiness. He slowly begins to take the role and responsibility of Jarrah. Bike especially seem to know what he is upto and provides clues silently through his drawings. Soon we realize that Jarrah was there for the same purpose. The company that has hired Martin are more driven to get this species. But those are plot points that does not become bigger than it has to. It causes bigger tragedies but are again played with a melancholy that never goes for melodrama.

Cinematography by Roberts Humphreys has some stellar shots of this magical place that gets sunbathed, snow showered and basked in mist to provide the kind of peaceful, sad yet beautiful poetry this film emulates. Daniel Nettheim wrote this screenplay based on the novel by the same name by Julia Leigh and I am more intrigued to read the book. Another story about a hunt comes to mind “The Ghost and the Darkness” which has nothing in common with this film apart from the hunt yet there is a mesmerizing scene of Val Kilmer’s character freezing by seeing this animal in front of him. There comes a moment in “The Hunter” and we see all the sides to Martin’s action. It does not comes contrived and we understand everything that follows it without a drop of unnecessary melodrama.

“The Hunter” is a movie that would take its time because the process needs to be real. It would appear that the actual hunt does not happen and I am sure any true hunter would agree the wait and patience that gets to that one single moment. The film does not bore us with that and shows the work of Willem Dafoe’s Martin precisely of what is required. And Dafoe brings forth this man with an authority that is neither arrogant nor cheesy. This man reacts for a true feeling and has stayed away I think more by choice. Here he tries to be like that but he gets in connecting with this family without his awareness. Before he or we know it, he has integrated himself into this nest. “The Hunter” does it all without a haste and in the meanwhile provides a peacefully collected with right thrills that ends melancholically.


Erin (and Dusty) said...

I was excited when I saw that you did a review on this! I have it ordered in netflix. Can't wait!!


Ashok said...

It is in Instant watch Erin! Check it out.