The closing film of this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam was the thriller-drama The Hunter, starring Willem Dafoe. This Australian film was directed by Daniel Nettheim, and entirely shot in Tasmania, giving us a unique look at the island. Dafoe plays Martin David, a mercenary hired by a mysterious biotech company to travel to Tasmania and track down the last Tasmanian tiger. Other major roles are filled by Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) and Frances O’Connor (A.I.).
The Tasmanian tiger was an animal native to Australia that went extinct in the early 20th century. The last officially recorded specimen died in a Tasmanian zoo in 1936. Even though the creature is officially classified as extinct, sightings are reported every year and the tiger has acquired a nearly mythical status. Martin is to track the tiger down, kill it, and extract organ, skin and hair samples. After this he is to erase all evidence by destroying the remains of the animal. We’re never told exactly what his employer wants with the material but apparently it has something to do with the poison the tiger is said to carry. Check out the trailer:
So we have a mythical Tasmanian creature, a mysterious biotech corporation up to no good, and mercenary Willem Dafoe. A great recipe for a film, I thought, and I was not disappointed.
Martin arrives in Tasmania equipped with a hunting rifle, traps, and containers for the samples. He poses as a scientist researching Tasmanian Devils and rents a
room from Lucy; a local woman who lives alone with her children after her husband disappeared under shady circumstances a few months earlier while working in the area. During his stay, he unwillingly gets caught up in a conflict between local loggers and environmentalists, or “greenies,” as they are not-so-lovingly called by the locals. While alone in the wild, Martin soon finds his traps sabotaged as he realizes he is not the only one looking for the tiger.
The film alternates between scenes of Dafoe in the wilderness chasing the tiger and the time he spends back in the village dealing with the locals. This creates a perfect balance between suspense and drama, and ensures the film doesn’t get boring. Dafoe’s performance is amazing and keeps you on the edge of your seat right up until the powerful ending (that I won’t spoil for you).
The beautiful Tasmanian scenery, the stellar performance by Dafoe, and great combination of suspense and drama make The Hunter an amazing film you should definitely check out! I give it 4 out of 5 Nerdskulls.