Rated MReview by David Stratton
Martin David, WILLEM DAFOE, a modern-day soldier of fortune, rendezvous in Paris with a mysterious man, Jacek Koman, who hires him to travel to Tasmania and attempt to locate a Tasmanian Tiger - although the animal is believed to be extinct, there are rumours that one has been sighted - and its DNA, whether the animal is dead or alive, represents a fortune to vested interests.
In a remote part of the island state, Martin moves into a room in the home of Lucy Armstrong, FRANCES O'CONNOR, mother of two small children; Lucy is still grieving over the fact that her husband, Jarrah, went missing some time ago. While Martin sets about methodically setting traps for the tiger, Lucy and her children are watched over in a possessive way by their neighbour, Jack Mendy, SAM NEILL.
Based on a novel by Julia Leigh, director of the recent film SLEEPING BEAUTY, THE HUNTER is a compelling and beautifully made film from director Daniel Nettheim. You could describe this as an environmentalthriller, but don't expect a fast-moving one; Nettheim rightly takes his time to establish the methods and skills of Martin as he methodically sets about laying traps for an elusive, possibly non-existent, Tasmanian Tiger.
It's a pity, in a way, that an Australian actor couldn't have been cast in this role, but Willem Dafoe is, as always, very effective, and Frances O'Connor and Sam Neill are excellent in support. Young Morgana Davies proves that her stellar performance in THE TREE was no flash in the pan - she's a very talented child star as is Finn Woodluck who plays her uncommunicative brother. But the real star of this quietly gripping film is Tasmania itself, an extraordinary wilderness landscape gloriously photographed for the wide screen by Robert Humphreys.
Further commentsDAVID: Margaret?
MARGARET: He's done a fabulous job with this film and so has Daniel Nettheim.
DAVID: Yes, I think they have.
MARGARET: Daniel has been working in television for a long time after making his first film, ANGST, and he comes up with this and it's so assured. It's just lovely to see and I defend Willem Dafoe. I really love him and I think he's great in this role.
DAVID: I think he's good but I always think it's a shame when a leading role in an Australian film can't be played by an Australian actor.
MARGARET: It's the pragmatics of the industry. That and it's sort of like...
DAVID: I never quite understand that.
MARGARET: No, it's tough but, for me, it works because it's almost like Dafoe's face is a reflection of this wilderness. He's got that sort of face.
DAVID: The film is very good, yes.
MARGARET: But, it's an emotional journey too, because this is a man removed from humanity in a way. A real loner and this contact with the family is the other subtext of the film. I think it's really beautiful. I'm giving it four stars.
DAVID: I like it very much too. I'm also giving it four stars.