When it comes to films starring Willem Dafoe his performances are nothing more but mesmeric, outstanding even when the film he stars in is truly awful. The actor is one of the films great gems who delivers wonderful performances that are deserving of awards but the true professional he is he doesn’t complain just gets on with the job. Past 20 years or so Willem Dafoe has been making big noises in arthouse/world cinema and his latest film The Hunter the actor excels once again as a hired hand to find one of the world’s rarest commodities whilst battling his own morality.
The Hunter is based on a novel by Julia Leigh that tells the story of Martin(Willem Dafoe) a mercenary sent from Europe to Australia by mysterious Biotech company.Martin heads to Tasmanian wilderness to embark on a dramatic hunt for the so called last Tasmanian Tiger despite the creature been reported extinct since 1982. As he searches the elusive creature he discovers the mysteries hidden within the wild landscape, triggering long forgotten emotions, but can a human who has led an immoral life find connection and redemption too?
What really grabs your attention in The Hunter is the central performance of Willem Dafoe. As I mentioned earlier in the review the actor rarely disappoints, he also rarely gets a chance to a lead a film and when he gets he grabs the bull by the horns delivering something truly fantastic. Martin is a charismatic emotionless man but when he’s on his own especially in the wilderness he’s in his element becoming part of the land, a predator, animalistic with frightening tenacity. When there’s no dialogue you really do get drawn into something rather haunting, atmospheric giving you a chance to appreciate the surroundings he’s in as well as his predatory skills.
We have to also give a mention to Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock who play the children at the farm Martin stays at, they deliver a performance so naturalistic as they are given a chance to be.. children. They bring out the parental side of Martin as they adopt him as a father figure with their own father lost in the wilderness, this makes Martin feel awkward. Even the children’s mother Lucy (Frances O’Connor) whose in a depressive state drugged up, constantly sleeping greets Martin’s presence within her home she embraces him when he sorts out the power and when he becomes more comfortable it then his morality is questioned even his loneliness.
It’s Films like The Hunter that make you think twice at how small the world is becoming at a frightening pace. This is a film that doesn’t just question the morality but environmental issues but the allegorical message of the film is terrifying and throughout the film thanks to the smartly written script reminders of the world changing drastically are scattered throughout the film: the destruction of the Tasmanian rain forest (like many other forests globally), job losses that impact local towns as they lose jobs, conservation groups been harassed by multi-national companies but most of all hunting a extinct creatures. The latter sort of ask you why do you hunt these ‘mythical’ creatures and why should we only read about these creatures in books and for the sake of the creature and it’s environment maybe they should stay ‘extinct’?
The Hunter is a beautifully shot film thanks to Robert Humphrey‘s breath-taking cinematography that captivates the desolation and beauty of the wild terrain of Tasmania. The world is getting smaller and these hidden tranquil treasures are becoming as elusive tiger asking you what can you do to make sure these lands don’t disappear?
The Hunter won’t be a film which will appeal to everyone as it’s a slow-burning psychological thriller will keep you engaged until the end. It’s atmospheric, beautifully shot and masterfully performed by an underrated esteemed actor in the industry today.