Review: The Hunter

Daniel Nettheim's The Hunter has firmly established itself as one of Silver Screen Slag's surprise favourites of the year. Few of this years' features have shown the mesmerizing beauty and compelling performances of the Australian director's sophomore picture.

The Hunter follows Martin David (Willem Dafoe), a mercenary from Europe, who is hired by shady biotech corporation, Red Leaf, to hunt down the last remaining Tasmanian tiger. However, Martin's presence in Tasmania is far from welcome - generating hostility from the locals and putting the lives of a broken family in danger.

Nettheim has presented us with a truly atmospheric and subtle feature. The setting of the Tasmanian wilderness proves the perfect canvas for this understated tale of isolation, obsession and loyalty to unfold on. From rural hideaways to grandiose mountain ranges, The Hunter remains visually breathtaking throughout.

Alison Addison's screenplay (adapted from Julia Leigh's novel) is meticulously well-crafted, layered viewing, boasting unsettling elements of brooding tension. This is crafted through David's uneasy encounters with the town's hostile local workers, but slowly escalates. Soon follows several game-changing plot twists that further amp up the sense of tension - one of which involves Dafoe's hunter being followed by a malevolent Red Leaf-hired hunter.

The Hunter also manages to connect on an emotional level, through David's encounter with a local family. The mercenary's gradual connection with the family's independent young children brings a much-welcomed sense of warmth to Nettheim's feature. However, it is Dafoe's performance that truly grips throughout The Hunter.

For the most part of the feature, David is in isolation, effectively allowing Dafoe to carry the film. Scenes that should be tedious (like David laying countless traps) are made compelling viewing by Dafoe's sheer magnetism. David's parallel with the lone tiger makes for griping thematic subject matter - especially in the striking, emotionally raw conclusion.

The supporting performances prove to be equally well cast from Frances O'Connors' heartfelt turn as the family's matriarch to Sam Neill's compelling role as David's guide who finds his loyalties challenged.

The Hunter proves to be a beautifully well crafted, slow burning thriller. Dafoe's leading performance is mesmerizing, as is Nettheim's awe-inspiring direction.

Rating: ★★★★★
Willem Dafoe 2994998036712657664
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