The Hunter, a one-man-against-nature, lone assassin thriller, is composed of sweeping panoramic shots of the Tasmanian wilderness and an incredible, stoic performance from Willem Dafoe.
Martin David (Dafoe), under the ruse of being from “the university,” actually comes to Tasmania to search for the last Tasmanian tiger – a species that is said to be extinct – to collect samples for a pharmaceutical company. On arrival, David is dropped off at his accommodation: a rural, dilapidated shack-style house lived in by a local woman, Lucy (Frances O’Connor) and her two children, Sass and Bike.
In the midst of fixing the power generator, cleaning the bathtub, caring for the comatose mother, and being pounced upon by the kids, David’s original reluctance to stay there diminishes as he becomes so attached to the family he nearly forgets about his pursuit of the tiger.
The film suffers from this somewhat sparse main plotline which is propped up with the strange family-centred subplot, therefore meaning it relies on its filming location and cinematography to keep the audience engaged. Between these two plot strands, Nettheim incorporates the classic hunter/hunted paradox that is often at home in these environmental, nature based films. The small local community, up in arms about the arrival of a stranger, begin to hunt Dafoe whilst he hunts the tiger. And obviously we can draw as many comparisons between Martin David and the last Tasmanian tiger as we can muster.
However, the narrative and genre definitely lend themselves to the potential for a deeper, more covert allegorical structuring than this – as seen in the likes of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry, for instance – but this is something which Nettheim chooses only to skim the surface of.
Without Dafoe, I would suggest that The Hunter might seem somewhat lacking and unsatisfying. But, if you can disconnect yourself from the cackle of the Green Goblin in the back of your head, then Dafoe’s atmospheric and gripping performance gives the film the edge that it needs.
The Hunter, dir. Daniel Nettheim (2012, Australia)