You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Hunter

A mercenary searching for the extinct Tasmanian Tiger has his suppressed humanity stirred in "The Hunter."

With: Willem Dafoe, Frances O'Connor, Sam Neill, Morgana Davies, Finn Woodlock, Jacek Koman, Callan Mulvey, John Brumpton, Dan Wyllie, Sullivan Stapleton, Jamie Timony.

A mercenary searching for the extinct Tasmanian Tiger has his suppressed humanity stirred in uneven Aussie psychological drama-cum environmental thriller “The Hunter.” Beautifully lensed and impeccably performed by topliner Willem Dafoe, debut helmer Daniel Nettheim’s adaptation of the novel by author-filmmaker Julia Leigh (“Sleeping Beauty”) maintains an intriguing ambience, but general auds may feel they’re not given enough information about the protag to become fully immersed in his journey toward redemption. Opening domestically Oct. 6 following its Toronto world preem, pic’s name cast should help snare respectable biz locally and in selected offshore markets.

The overarching plot is a real grabber: A soldier of fortune (Dafoe) is recruited in Paris by a middleman (Jacek Koman) representing a shady biotech company to secure potentially priceless DNA from a Tasmanian Tiger. (The Tiger — the “dog with a wolf’s head” — has long captured the public imagination Down Under with rumors of its survival since the last specimen died in captivity in 1936 and the species was officially declared extinct in 1986.)

Assuming the name Martin David and the persona of a university researcher studying the common Tasmanian Devil, David is met in a remote part of the island state by Jack Mindy (Sam Neill), a local guide who arranges lodging for the visitor at the run-down house of Lucy Armstrong (Frances O’Connor).

In the first third of the film, the interests of Lucy, left virtually comatose by the sedatives she’s taken in the many months since her zoologist husband disappeared in the bush, are related by her daughter, Sass (Morgana Davies), a sparky tween with a strikingly adult vocabulary, and her shy younger brother, Bike (Finn Woodlock). But as the film progresses, David’s lonely, mysterious excursions into the wilderness for what local legend suggests is the last surviving tiger, are punctuated by meetings with a now sedative-free Lucy, with whom he establishes a bond. And his father-like connection with the children helps him pick up a crucial lead to the tiger.

The fate of Lucy’s husband and a background confrontation between environmental activists and loggers add a slow-burning suspense to the mix, but the story’s primary aim of getting auds to empathize with David’s transformation from an emotional blank to a man with genuine feelings is undercut by the narrow perimeters drawn around him.

Though hardly providing a detailed profile of the central character, Leigh’s 1999 novel offered enriching snapshots of his difficult childhood, lack of meaningful relationships and his experiences as a hired hand in military operations. Dafoe’s perf as the lone wolf is spot-on, but the absence of any such backgrounding leaves auds to only imagine what has brought him to this personal crossroads.

Assisted by an engaging turn from Neill as the friendly local with something to hide and O’Connor’s punchy role as a distressed wife and mother with more to fear than she might dare imagine, Nettheim’s carefully considered direction successfully molds David’s hunt for the elusive tiger into a metaphor for the insecurities of the main players.

Widescreen lensing by Robert Humphreys boldly contrasts staggeringly beautiful landscapes with moody interiors reflecting the characters’ fears. Subtle music and haunting slivers of ambient sound by Matteo Zingales, Michael Lira and Andrew Lancaster contribute mightily to the mythical aura surrounding David’s prey. The rest of the tech work is first-class.

The Hunter


Production: A Madman Entertainment release of a Screen Australia presentation in association with Screen NSW, Screen Tasmania, Fulcrum Media Finance, Madman Entertainment of a Porchlight Films production. (International sales: Entertainment One, London.) Produced by Vincent Sheehan. Executive producers, Liz Watts, Anita Sheehan, Paul Wiegard. Directed by Daniel Nettheim. Screenplay, Alice Addison, based on the novel by Julia Leigh.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color, Panavision widescreen), Robert Humphreys; editor, Roland Gallois; music, Matteo Zingales, Michael Lira, Andrew Lancaster; music supervisor, Andrew Kotatko; production designer, Steven Jones-Evans; art director, Amanda Sallybanks; costume designer, Emily Seresin; sound (Dolby Digital), Robert Mackenzie, Sam Petty; visual effects supervisors, Anders Thonell, James Rogers; visual effects, Fuel VFX, Post Modern Sydney; stunt coordinators, Mark Hennessy, Harry Dakanalis; line producer, Ann Folland; assistant director, John Martin; second unit director, Vincent Sheehan; second unit camera, Kevin Scott; casting, Jane Norris. Reviewed at Hoyts Theatrette, Sydney, Aug. 26, 2011. (In Toronto Film Festival - Special Presentations) Running time: 100 MIN.

Cast: With: Willem Dafoe, Frances O'Connor, Sam Neill, Morgana Davies, Finn Woodlock, Jacek Koman, Callan Mulvey, John Brumpton, Dan Wyllie, Sullivan Stapleton, Jamie Timony.

More Scene

  • Guillermo del Toro Alec Baldwin Tribeca

    Guillermo del Toro on Why It's a Director's Duty to Always 'Exceed the Budget'

    Guillermo del Toro has some advice for directors that would leave most studios shaking. “As a director, it is your duty to always responsibly exceed the scope and exceed the budget,” he said. “If you have enough time and enough money, you’re f—ing up.” Del Toro dropped that bit of wisdom during a chat with [...]

  • Sophia Anne Caruso and Alex Brightman'Beetlejuice'

    'Beetlejuice' Musical Team Hopes to Attract New Audiences to Broadway

    In the new Broadway adaptation of Tim Burton’s 1988 cult classic film “Beetlejuice,” teenager Lydia takes center-stage alongside the titular gut-busting demon (Alex Brightman) to reflect the famed goth girl’s journey through Beetlejuice’s funhouse of death and disaster. “I think so many people connect to “Beetlejuice” because it’s a story of outsiders, Lydia being the center of [...]

  • Michael B. JordanLAFH Awards 2019, Los

    Michael B. Jordan, Ronda Rousey Join Efforts to Help the Homeless

    Michael B. Jordan and WWE star Ronda Rousey were just two of the powerhouses that gathered in Hollywood Thursday night for the LA Family Housing’s annual fundraising celebration. The live-auction event, which brought together hundreds of top industry executives, philanthropists, and government partners, aimed to raise $2 million for LAFH, which builds permanent housing and [...]

  • Ron HowardBreakthrough Prize, Arrivals, NASA Ames

    Ron Howard Talks New Luciano Pavarotti Documentary

    If one is an anomaly, two are a coincidence and three are a trend, then Ron Howard might strictly become a music documentarian after “Pavarotti” hits theaters. The documentary about the world-famous Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti comes on the heels of Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” and “Made in America,” a look at [...]

  • Cara Delevingne poses for photographers upon

    Cara Delevingne to Be Honored With Hero Award at Trevor Project New York Gala

    The Trevor Project will honor Cara Delevingne with the Hero Award at its upcoming TrevorLIVE New York gala. Delevingne has supported The Trevor Project‘s efforts to end LGBTQ youth suicide rates, in addition to using her platform to speak out about mental health issues, women’s rights and animal conservation. On screen, she has acted in [...]

  • Kristen Stewart'JT LeRoy' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Kristen Stewart: 'Charlie's Angels' Reboot Is 'Woke' but Still 'Funny and Weird'

    “Charlie’s Angels” has made the jump to 2019. Kristen Stewart, who stars in the Elizabeth Banks-directed reboot as one of the Angels, says the classic ’70s franchise has been updated to modern times without losing its pulpy action. “At one point I think we said it was woke and grounded, and everyone was like, ‘Wait, [...]

  • Robert De Niro

    Robert De Niro Slams Trump Administration at Tribeca Opening Night

    The 18th annual Tribeca Film Festival opened with Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo” at the iconic uptown venue which performers and Harlem community members call “home.” “You can feel the history, the echo of the entertainers,” Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro said in a speech before the film. “In this administration, during [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content