The great Australian films of 2011 just keep coming with new film, The Hunter. Hearing that this film secured international sales just after I viewed the film came as no surprise at all as this is a thriller that would translate into any language. It’s story is strong enough to suck you in and the beautiful visuals of the Tasmanian wilderness make it a pleasure to look at.
Based on Julia Leigh’s novel The Hunter follows Martin David (Willem Dafoe), a mercenary hired by a science-based company to hunt down the supposedly-extinct Tasmanian Tiger based on a couple of recent sightings. When Martin arrives in Tasmania (under the guise of a researcher) he finds he is staying at the home of Lucy Armstrong (Frances O’Connor) and her children, Sass (Morgana Davies) and Bike (Finn Woodlock). Martin is shocked to find the children are fending for themselves, with some help from over-protective local, Jack Mindy (Sam Neill), after there mother has given up on life after the disappearance of her husband. Soon Martin finds out his role of ‘researcher’ has created many enemies including the local timber industry and a rival (Callan Mulvey).
Director, Daniel Nettheim really grabs hold of this script and brings out it ‘thriller’ nature right to the fore. Without even realizing it as an audience member The Hunter keeps you on the edge of your seat once Martin arrives in Tasmania. From the unfriendly locals to the wildnerness everything feels like a threat to Martin and Nettheim enhances it with some creative shots and allows the story to flow freely. Nettheim understands film and realises that while his shots of the Tasmanian wilderness look beautiful he can’t rely on them as they would only detract from the story, he also smartly doesn’t give the audience any chance to try and pick what is going to happen next. Perhaps it is because Sam Neill is even featured in the cast but The Hunter reminded me of that same ‘uneasiness’ I had when watching Dead Calm for the first time. The screenwriters should also be congratulated for not allowing the ‘environmentalist’ message not to get in the way of the story either.
This is also the film that allows Willem Dafoe to bounce back to his best. As a fan of his I was bitterly disappointed with My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done so it’s good to see him a in a role where he gets to remind the world once again how good of an actor he really is. Dafoe is well supported by Frances O’Connor while Sam Neill plays the menacing threat to a tee. The other highlight was the performances of Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock. Following her role in The Tree Davies is really showing herself as one of Australia’s most impressive new talents while Woodlock also shows that he should have a rosy future ahead of him. Casting quality actors such as John Brumpton and Callan Mulvey was also a terrific idea as it brings great depth to the film.
On the back of Red Dog and Face To Face, The Hunter only goes to show that the Australian film industry is getting stronger and stronger. Good enough to win awards overseas, The Hunter is a terrific thriller worthy of the world stage!