|'Nettheim's film is deep with a capital D and depressing even with two doses of your pick-me-up of choice. There's little pause for humour and Defoe growls from the off.'|
Existentialism and dangerous animals. As remarked elsewhere, The Hunter would make an interesting - if incredibly downbeat - double bill with The Grey. Themes about man's destructive nature are more prevalent in Daniel Nettheim's trek through Tasmania than in Joe Carnahan's Liam-Neeson-vs-Wolves film but nevertheless, the two share plenty of common ground.
Most notable when looking along a check list of similarities is the dedication of the director to grizzled scenery (Tasmania looks remote and wonderful), a grizzled lead (Willem Defoe is more morose than mercenary) and grizzly morals (Defoe must kill the last Tasmanian Tiger in existence). And that's before you've even made it to the really grim parts. Nettheim's film is deep with a capital D and depressing even with two doses of your pick-me-up of choice. There's little pause for humour and Defoe growls from the off. Some distraction provided by the children at the house he makes base camp at can only end badly.
In the wilderness Martin (Defoe) becomes a more contemplative than combative persona, as Nettheim carefully manages him through a change where the forest seems his home to where he can't stand to be there any longer than he needs to be. Martin's arc is one of finding a human touch owing to too much time spent in close proximity to ragged wilderness. When he eventually finds it, he can't help but bring some of his past savage back with him to inevitably disastrous results.
This most obviously lends itself to a reading aligned with the vicious foibles of human nature. The Hunter of the title may well be the tiger Martin chases - the tiger is on the cover of Julia Leigh's source novel - but it is at least equally Martin himself, initially chasing the tiger and then chasing a dream he can never hope to attain. The script by Alice Addison and Wain Fimeri lays this on a bit thick on occasion (Martin spells it out at one point) but by and large the message successfully gets across without slamming in to your face.
The problems creep in further as The Hunter gets closer to its close. Suddenly the plotting seems to revolve around the fact that every man and his devil knows why Martin is there and Nettheim lurches towards a tragedy that comes from close to nowhere and therefore doesn't feel earned. Important side players like Sam Neil's Jack Mindy don't get the time they need and the final shot has none of the tear-jerking gravitas that it thinks it might possess, somewhere behind all the gruff postulating.
The Hunter is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from Monday 29th October.