Movie Review: 'The Hunter' -- 3 stars
Directed by Daniel Nettheim
Starring Willem Dafoe
With one of the most offbeat, expressive faces in cinema, Willem Dafoe can't get away with playing ordinary people in everyday movies. But he's the perfect actor to carry a film like "The Hunter," which is guided by the internal journey experienced by his unusual character.
In this intriguing, somber thriller, Dafoe plays Martin David, an American mercenary hired by a faceless corporation to track down the last remaining Tasmanian tiger. The task requires repeated journeys into the rolling hills, dense shrubbery and mystical mists of the vast Tasmanian wilderness, trips that are broken up by sojourns into town, where Martin is housed with the family of a zoologist who has recently gone missing.
The protagonist is a meticulous worker, serious about the task at hand and adept at shutting out distractions. But as he spends time with the family, comprised of bedridden mom Lucy (Frances O'Connor) and precocious children Sass (Morgana Davies) and Bike (Finn Woodlock), the hunter's icy heart slowly starts to thaw.
This is a slow-burn character-focused piece, without big reveals or explosive action. Director Daniel Nettheim builds things at a deliberate pace, focusing on the strong emotions simmering within the protagonist and paralleling them with a conflict between environmentalists and loggers that's eating away at the heart of the town.
With an eye for Tasmania's immense beauty, and a keen sense of the primal burdens that are amplified in such an extraordinary natural setting, Nettheim spins the compelling tale of a man learning to stand for something other than his wallet.