It was some time ago when I first saw the full-length trailer for this film. So long ago in fact that I can't remember the date. And after watching it once or twice, for whatever reason, I deleted the trailer from my iTunes library. The only reason I saw this film and am typing out this review is because I saw the poster/cover for this while browsing through Netflix's main page. All of that said, after just having finished "The Hunter" I am immensely glad that I came back across it.
Martin David (Willem Dafoe), an independent and somewhat lonely hunter, is hired by Red Leaf, a powerful biotechnology company. Martin's task is to track down the believed-to-be extinct Tasmanian Tiger and retrieve DNA samples that Red Leaf is very keen to acquire. Traveling to Tasmania on his own, Martin poses as a researcher from a local university and stays with Lucy Armstrong (Frances O'Connor) and her two children. After receiving an antagonistic welcome from the local townspeople, and learning about Lucy's husband's disappearance, Martin decides to find out what happened to him while hunting for the tiger. All the while growing closer to Lucy and her children. But Red Leaf is interested in nothing other than getting what they want, and they will ensure that that happens at any cost.
I haven't seen Willem Dafoe in very many other films, in fact the total number, counting this, comes out at half a dozen. But excluding this film, in the other films I have seen him in, he had nothing more than minor roles or brief appearances. The only movie that comes to mind where he had the opposite was 2002's "Spider-Man" and even then after his character becomes his alter ego, he looks like a power ranger reject. So you could imagine my hesitancy when I first came across "The Hunter" those few odd months ago. But before the trailer was over, I knew there was something about this film that I had to see for myself.
Unfortunately, this was an Australian film and had a very limited release in the United States. Some of the comments and reviews I've seen have said that this film deserved a wider release and was underrated and... I can see where those would come from. As with any film, there were also the comments that highlighted/focused on the negatives of this film. And while I can respect wherever those people are coming from, I honestly couldn't understand how they would see those things. I am by no means a hard core Willem Dafoe fan, but if this film was my introduction to him instead of "Spider-Man", I would be much more impressed than I am right now.
I'm sure you've noticed by now my usage of the word "film" as opposed to "movie". The reason I've done thus is because I feel that the word "movie" is too light a generalization for a film like this. In a society where the majority of us is more than satisfied with the generic Action/Adventure movie where guy A runs around, beats up guy B, has sex with girls A, B, and sometimes C, and then does whatever was blatantly set up to be the climax and that's it. That is definitely not the case with "The Hunter".
This film is hauntingly beautiful, with some of the most gorgeous film locations I've seen since Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. There were some scenes where not one word was uttered that portrayed more emotion than could've been given had there been dialogue. One scene in particular was the very last shot of the film, which involves Martin and Lucy's young son. Both the end scene and one other around the three-quarter mark were so powerful emotionally that in the second scene's case, I was almost moved to tears. But don't worry; I won't spoil what happened in those scenes, they will be all the more impactful when you see then in context. Only one other movie has had that effect on me, and this film came very close itself.
Now I realize that this review might come out to be shorter than what I usually come out with, but, aside from what I've already said, there isn't much more I can say without repeating myself. I honestly wish that "The Hunter" would've received a better release, but regrettably that won't happen now. What you can do though is put this on your Netflix queue or better yet, do yourself the favor and buy this film. It's one of the better films I've seen in a long time and it has an ending, along with a couple of twists, that I honestly did not see coming.
This was a review by tMG, thank you for the read.