The Hunter is one of those rare films that catches you by the throat, and leaves you watching with bated breath as you wonder what is going to happen next. Strangely enough though, the film is the antithesis of a fast paced action movie. It is the extraordinary skill of its director, Daniel Nettheim, and his cinematographer Robert Humphreys, which together, in the best kind of cinematic collaboration, create an unforgettable film with an essence of the hard to achieve cinematic magic that leaves the viewer still thinking about the film days and days later.
The Hunter begins with the amazing Willem Dafoe waiting in a cold Paris hotel room for some cryptic information via the telephone. Slowly it becomes clear that his character, Martin David, is a mercenary, and the mysterious and malevolent Red Leaf Bio Technology company is hiring him to travel to Australia to hunt the last remaining Tasmanian Tiger. He is to kill it, harvest its organs, and return so that the company may use the tiger's remains for its own nefarious purposes.
When Martin David arrives in remote Hobart, Australia, he is in the guise of a zoologist studying the Tasmanian Devil – a marsupial found on the Australian island state of Tasmania. He is put up by "the university" at a remote house owned by Lucy Armstrong (Frances O' Connor) from where he can drive into the Tasmanian wild to look for his prey.
Martin arrives at the house to find it in disarray, Lucy's husband Jarrah, who was also a zoologist, has been missing for months in the wild, and she is almost always asleep – stricken, and self-medicated by sleeping pills. Her two children, Sass (Morgana Davies), a foul mouthed little blonde, and her brother Bike (Finn Woodlock), are running nearly wild, kept tabs on by a seemingly avuncular visitor Jack Mindy (Sam Neill) who lives down the road.
As Martin shares his time between his search for the tiger in the wild and the house, he slowly forms a bond with his host family. Both the film, and Martin's emotional arc, develop through this beautifully portrayed relationship. Intermittently, stunning scenes of Martin's search in the primeval Tasmanian wild hold the film together, and slowly, we get a strong sense of who Martin really is as he spends his time searching for the elusive tiger in the purple hues of the gorgeous Tasmanian dusk.
It is hard to describe just how searing the last few scenes of the film are. Every tragic and beautiful event in the film comes full circle as Martin sets out for the wild one final time - and finds the Tasmanian Tiger. What he does is the epitome of amazing writing, something that only happens when writers know their characters inside out. In the end, all I can say is that The Hunter may well be one of the best films of 2011. Watch it, but be aware, its terrible beauty might haunt you for days.
All DVDs reviewed in this column are available at the writer's favourite DVD store: Music and Expression, Thamel, Phone # 014700092