Willem Defoe plays a hunter, Martin, who is sent in search of the rare Tasmanian tiger, believed by many to be extinct. During his hunt he stays with a family in a remote Australian village where the fate of the tiger has huge ramifications. When the village doesn’t take kindly to Martin he becomes hunted in his own right, as the locals fear he’s an environmentalist there to close down the local logging industry.
The Hunter goes onto the films designed to piss off Fox News list as it seems to have a strong ecological message against hunting. Its environmentalism isn’t as explicit as the likes of Avatar or Wall.E, but the way the pursuit of the endangered animal creates so much tragedy means this film’s anti-hunting message can hardly be doubted. The stiff competition for the animal (for its rare DNA) results in death, hostility and suspicion.
But on top of this it’s also a very good drama, with the relationship Martin establishes with the family giving it strong emotional foundations. With their absentee father, again caused by hunting, Martin grows close to the very cute children, the older more talkative Katie (Morgana Davis) and silent Jamie (Finn Woodlock).
As is to be expected much of this film takes place in the wilderness as Martin tracks down the mysterious beast, with long dialogue-free stretches. In these segments the camera bathes in the glory of the Australian scenery on display as vast aerial shots capture the scale and beauty of the film’s mountain backdrop.
It’s a small scale drama set against an epic landscape, a contrast which works fantastically.