The Tasmanian Tiger, also known as the thylacine has been extinct since 1936; mainly due to overhunting and sport hunting. Regardless of what scientists say about the extinction, hundreds of alleged sightings are recorded each year…but with little to no supporting evidence.
The 2011 Australian film The Hunter, based on the Julia Leigh novel with the same title, tells the story of one such sighting.
Directed by the not-so-well-known Daniel Nettheim (Angst and The Beat Manifesto), The Hunter stars the poorly aged Willem Dafoe (The Boondock Saints & Platoon) as the cold-hearted and meticulous American hunter/survivalist Martin David.
His mission: to retrieve biological samples from the legendary Tasmanian Tiger for a biotech firm to be used in genetic research. David’s methods: roam the Tasmanian wilderness in hopes to see the supposed last Tasmanian Tiger alive…a bit unrealistic, huh? The film also stars one of my favorite actors, Sam Neill (Jurassic Park & The Hunt for Red October) as the shady Tasmanian local who always seems to have a hidden agenda with everything he does.
The character of Martin David is an interesting one. He is direct, precise and consistent, but also lonely. He seems to be lacking a true character at the onset of the film. He does not work well with others, nor does he have basic social skills. It makes you wonder: does he choose to be alone, or has he given up trying?
As most hunting films play out…the hunter usually becomes the hunted in the end. Upon his arrival to the country, he assumes the false role of a scientist doing research on the areas famous Tasmanian Devils and he lodges with some local (real) scientists. It is here that he is put between the eco-green mentality of the scientists and the capital-driven logging industry that employs so many of the towns locals. Martin finds himself in a world of hatred, small-mindedness and stupidity. The irony presented is that Martin, along with the scientists and tree-huggers, becomes the Tasmanian Tiger — Hunted.
As with every movie I watch, there is always one shoddy aspect that was thrown together by the director at 2am after 5 cups of coffee. In this case, it is the relationship between Martin and the woman who owns the house he is staying in. For the first hour of the film, her character was unimportant and almost unknown, yet a few conversations later, Martin and her become best friends.
I can understand that a single mother in Tasmania sounds like the iconic formula of loneliness, but at least make it somewhat believable. Martin’s character does not represent some outgoing socialite, so why develop a relationship that makes him look like one.
Image by Matt Nettheim
The Hunter proves to be useful in illustrating several things. First, it shows how beautiful the Tasmanian wilderness is, especially for a place most people think is the fictional home of a particular cartoon character. Set among rolling hills, jagged cliffs, smoky tundras and dank jungles, the complicated and mind boggling Tasmanian setting seems to take away from the already thin essence of the story.
At times I felt so intrigued by the National Geographic style of filming that the plot seemed meaningless. Second, it dips into the subject of the destruction caused by the heavy logging industry presence. I didn’t realize, but this topic is one that is very much prominent in Tasmania today. With more strict laws enforced and more lands claimed by Green Groups, the tension between people fighting for the forest and those who depend on the logging companies for income seems to be exploding. For further reading, check out the article: Tasmanian logging double the sustainable rate: report.
The largest point made by this film is the how the role of small-mindedness and ignorance can have a profound affect on the decisions people make. This film revolves around the ignorance of others, and with ignorance comes jealously, hatred, anger and after that, destructive decisions. You will see if you decide to watch the film.
I really tried to enjoy this piece. The settings were beautiful and the acting was good. But it just never picked up. We essentially follow Martin for a nice 140 minute how-to-set-a-animal-trap tutorial. There are moments of intrigue, but for the most part, the film just putts along like a struggling engine.
The conclusion is just an endless sea of lies, deceit, negative emotions, guilt, paranoia and in a strange way, emerging true happiness. I liked that this movie was not filled with big-breasted women, explosions, sex and unnecessary complex plots. It is minimalistic and artistic in thinking, yet conservative in nature. It just needs more if it wants to be a great film.