Out of ammo? A stunning slow burner of an Australian film. But is it too slow?
Mere months after Julia Leigh made her directorial debut with Sleeping Beauty, director Daniel Nettheim has brought her first novel to the screen. The Hunter shares a certain austerity and opaque internality with Leigh’s film, as Willem Dafoe trades chaotic nature (in Antichrist) for a quest into the wilderness to track the Tasmanian Tiger.
Hired by a biotech company for this seeming mission impossible, Dafoe’s Martin reluctantly arrives to rustic accommodations with the Armstrong family – whose zoologist father is missing – as well as a hostile standoff between greenie protesters and the local logging community.
Dafoe is an effortless mercenary, with his wiry frame and striking features lending a palpable physicality to a largely silent role. His distancing pragmatism is nicely countered by Morgana Davies’s effusive turn as Sass Armstrong, the young daughter and self-appointed welcome wagon who enlists Martin’s help to find her father. Frances O’Connor and Sam Neill both bring fine performances to their relatively underused characters in a story that at times threatens to fizzle out its slow burn.
Though a little more obvious than psychologically thrilling, The Hunter boasts some striking cinematography; it’s just the internal landscape that feels a little lacking.
This article appeared in the October, 2011 issue of Limelight Magazine.
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