The old adage "Don't judge a book by it's cover" finds in the film The Hunter a perfect representative. Indeed, what is one to expect when a film holds the labels 'adventure', 'thriller' and 'drama'; or when the plot summary speaks of a mercenary sent into the Tasmanian wilderness to hunt the last Tasmanian tiger in existence? In truth, I had no expectations going into this viewing; I was driven by curiosity more than anything and a fondness for Willem Dafoe's acting.
For some time now I have intended to watch The Hunter but just never seemed to find the right time. That time was this evening and I'm glad that I did; for what I discovered on this particular cinematic journey was so much more than what this film was touted to be.
I have long known that Willem Dafoe was an actor of the calibre to carry a film solely on his shoulders. My respect for him knows no bounds. For certain, in mere supporting roles over the years, he has improved movies with his very presence and unique character. It's safe to say that were it not for his inclusion in some casts, I might not have enjoyed certain movies at all.
While, as I said, I had no real expectations, in truth I did think that this would be a certain type of film. Yet though it is labeled as an adventure (and it is) and as a thriller (I won't deny that one either), what it truly is - at it's core - is a drama. The Hunter has a feel to it that I've found common among many 'indy' films. It's nothing tangible but a definite...something. Perhaps it's simply that the characters and actions aren't overdone as is so often the case with Hollywood blockbusters.
There is vital realism here and characters that have depth without beating you over the head with it. This is a movie to be experienced...not just watched. If you want something that requires no thought, a purely gratuitous squandering of two hours, then (by all means) make your way down the aisle with a tub of popcorn and catch the next Terminator or Fast and the Furious movie. You won't have to think and, honestly, your emotions won't get much of a workout either but it will be enjoyable.
While Dafoe's character of Martin makes his way to the Tasmanian wilderness to track down, if possible, the last remaining tiger; he finds much more than he bargained for. As his base of operations, he has a room rented from a widow with two young children whose husband (a researcher and zoologist) disappeared in the very wilds in which he must himself go. Tensions between loggers and the 'greenies' run high and Martin finds himself the object of animosity from the beginning from many.
As time passes between his hunts Martin finds himself enticed into the lives of his renters; the children who begin to look upon him as a surrogate father and their mother, who Martin frees from her grief-induced, drug-addled haze. Their eccentricities and persistence endear them to him and he finds reasons to spend more time with them. Ultimately, The Hunter is a journey of self-discovery and while I could say so much more, I have no wish to clutter this review with spoilers. Suffice to say that the payoff is well worth the ride.
This isn't your average movie and that is a very good thing indeed.