Director Daniel Nettheim spent close to a decade perfecting the story with his writing team and the attention to detail and precision is highly noticeable. It is a truly extraordinary journey Martin David (Willem Dafoe) goes on and viewers are happy to go along for the ride.
Martin David is a true loner. A middle aged man who has spent his life alone, going from one job to another, never stopping to catch the sights. His latest task involves hunting down the elusive Tasmanian tiger. Meant to have gone extinct in the 1930’s, many tales in a small Tasmania town confirm there is one still roaming around somewhere in the woods. His trip leads him to stay with a family of two young children and the mother (Frances O’Connor), Lucy, who has gone nearly unconscious after her husband’s disappearance. The conditions are less than ideal but political troubles in the area force his stay with them.
Martin heads into the woods for twelve days and returns to the family home in between to re-stock his supplies repeatedly. The kids tell stories of their father and soon reveal him to have been searching for the tiger himself. Martin helps Lucy get back on her feet and a reluctant but inevitable bond is formed between Martin and the family. As he continues with lone hunting trips, new dangers and answers become clear.
While the film has many strengths, Willem Dafoe’s quiet but powerful performance is a a clear stand-out. As Martin’s journey brings him to new emotional attachments and self-discovery, the character is never allowed to turn sappy or badly clichéd. In addition to being beautifully shot on location in Tasmania, the film’s success stems from its inspirational nature and compelling tale of finding what has long been lost. It touches on environmental and political issues while maintaining its calm beautifully. While the circumstances are not fully original, the story always remains fresh and interesting.
The Hunter’s few disappointments are unfortunate side effects of what actually make it so great. While the film needs to maintain a slow pace in accordance with Martin’s personality and overall nature of his studies, there are lengthy scenes of setting up traps and waiting that do tend to drag on. The ending as well is overly emotional and seems like a very fitting yet depressing end to what had been a beautiful journey thus far. The film is worth watching without question but some tissues and a pre-screening nap might help the experience go a bit smoother.