The Hunter (2011)

Ever been to Tasmania? Could you find it on a map of the world? That’s it – right under the continent known as Down Under. Well you can get a great look at Tasmania’s little known countryside in the new film The Hunter. It won’t be playing at a theater in the USA for a while, but it is available via cable companies with On Demand services. So today I pushed a few buttons on my remote, which will add $9.99 to my already expensive cable bill.

This is an Australian production and the stars are the internationally known Willem Dafoe (To Live and Die in LA, Mississippi¬†Burning, Clear and Present Danger, Platoon) and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, The Piano, The Hunt for Red October). Directed by Daniel Nettheim and adapted by Wain Fimen from the novel written by Julia Leigh, this is a story of a European mercenary hired by a bio-tech firm to hunt down an animal known as the Tasmanian Tiger. The film’s tagline is Some Mysteries Should Never Be Solved.

I’ll admit to not knowing a thing about this film, but after seeing it as a new release on Comcast’s On Demand listings, I decide to have a look at the film on the IMDB. After which I decided to see it.

Willem Dafoe plays Martin David, the mercenary, tracker, hunter, even calling him a soldier of fortune fits. You also might call him a man for all seasons – as he will meet lots of different kinds of weather once he’s up there as well as being a MacGuyver type of guy.

Up there? That would be the bush country. There are maps so some people have been there before. But there’s not much in the way of roads. You go up to a certain point and after that you’ve got to hoof it.

So we meet Martin David in Paris were he’s given his marching orders. Go up in this place that’s beyond the beyond, a place that’s out back behind the outback. We can call it bush country. There’s mountains, creeks, forests, and some animals afoot that you probably won’t recognize. David’s mission is to track down the Tasmanian Tiger. Many believe it is extinct – but there’s been reports of sightings. Find it, kill it, and bring back organ samples, and fluids, and DNA.

He’s on a retainer from that bio-tech firm called Red Leaf. There’s something major in the Tasmanian Tiger that this firm has to have – but the film takes its time in letting us in on that secret.

David lands in an unnamed town after flying in-country. He’s got a rented SUV, plenty of gear, a sturdy backpack, a big rifle with a large scope, and oodles of know-how. His base camp is a ramshackle home high up in the hills but near a town. He finds two children there, and their mother who is asleep for the first half of the film. There’s no power as the generator has given out a while back. That means no electricity, no hot water.

David heads in to town to get some supplies and the locals in the bar/pool hall/hotel are downright icy. They don’t like foreigners one bit. He doesn’t want to stay at the power deprived home, so he asks for a room. They tell him there are no rooms for rent. “I’ll pay double”, he says. “You can pay triple but there’s still no rooms”, they say.

Eventually Sam Neill as Jack Mindy arrives at the farm house – he’s been set up to take Martin David up into the territory he needs to be in. Mindy tells David to follow in his own truck. The go deeply in – but eventually Martin tells Jack that he’s going to go in on his own. He’s left his co-ordinates of where he’ll be with the kids. He says he will be back in 12 days.There’s your bare bones set up. Dafoe’s hike into the woods has way more to it than meets the eye.

About 16 years ago, author John Feinstein published a book about participating on the PGA Tour. That book about being a professional golfer was called, A Good Walk Spoiled.

There’s no connection between the game of golf and this film. I mention the book because that’s the essence of the film – a long walk and exploration deep into the woods in a place most of us will never see again.

There’s not a lot of excitement even though there are some surprising turns. To match the on foot actor, the film plays slowly, but stay with it. Dafoe may have the most lines in the film – but he’s not really accessible as a character. But if there’s an actor on the planet that can played a silent but determined man better than Dafoe – I don’t know who that might be. More interesting are the 8 year old girl Sass who can talk with anyone, and her five year old brother Bike, who says plenty though none of it is in the form of spoken words.

Yes, it is a film for those of you who have a yen for the outdoors, or those of you that like a film with a family drama, as well as one which we can call an adventure thriller. Factor in ecology and environmental issues, corporate conspiracies and you’ve got it all.

The views of the country are more than eye-catching, they’re awesome. There’s the on foot and then there’s some shots from a helicopter which aren’t a part of the story but are employed to establish the vast unspoiled setting. I guess I have to give kudos to the location scouts who found some spectacular places to set up shop. And of course to the crew who had to haul the equipment into some difficult places.

You’ll hear Vivaldi, Springsteen, as well as some excellent Handel on the sound track.

I’m not going to call the film a must see (for obvious reasons – the main one being that it won’t be easily found), and I’m not going to call it a masterpiece either. If you do camping, hiking, trekking, then you should see it. But if you are looking for laughs, romance, and car chases you won’t find any of those in this film. I’m rating it at three seven five on a scale of one to five, and I will recommend it.

Have a look at the trailer: