The Hunter Blu-ray Review
THE HUNTER follows Wilem Dafoe as Martin, a mercenary hired by a biotech company searching for the elusive Tasmanian Tiger. When Martin arrives to the beautiful yet treacherous wilderness in Tasmania, Australia, his goal is to hunt down the animal that is believed to be extinct.
With the initial description, one might believe THE HUNTER to be a survivalist film. And to an extent it very much is as we see Martin track through rough terrain setting up every careful detail into animal traps and snares. These are all interesting moments and Wilem Dafoe manages to find an introverted quiet strength without ever uttering a word. But where THE HUNTER is even more captivating is in the rich character development and human relationship Martin finds with the Armstrong family.
In order to quiet questions and to maintain easier access, Martin goes undercover as an animal researcher for a University staying with a local family. But upon his arrival only the children are around to interact with him. The daughter Sass (Morgana Davies), represents her name well as she shows Martin the ropes with fearless and childish intrusiveness. The younger son, Bike (Finn Woodlock), hasn’t spoken since their father went missing earlier that season in the surrounding wilderness. Their mother, Lucy (Frances O’Connor), has been depressed sleeping her days away on prescription drugs. The house is a mess, the electricity generator doesn’t work and the tub only produces cold water.
When looking for another place to stay in town, he is met with unwelcome responses believing him to be part of the green peace movement to stop the deforestation costing jobs for all the local loggers. As a friend of the Armstrong family, Jack Mindy (Sam Neill – JURASSIC PARK) helps Martin as a brief guide and informative brain into the forest and town dynamics. Doing his best to stay uninvolved and distant, Martin is literally forced into caring for the family when Lucy has a near death experience. The growth of his relationship between the children and their mother are sweet yet restrained, effectively pulling the audience and Martin into a more meaningful life theme.
As an Australian native, the love for the land is apparent in director Daniel Nettheim’s vision. The landscape is gorgeous and lush, capturing exquisite sunsets through open lands and thick forrest brush. Mostly working in televison, Nettheim transitions nicely developing characters with gradual methodic pacing. Some might complain that it moves too slow and while that certainly might deter the casual viewer, I found the intricacies of the character setting snares and waiting, an insightful window into who the man is and a fascinating look at a knowledgeable survivalist.
THE HUNTER is adapted from a novel by Julia Leigh and is much deeper introspective story than one might perceive at first glance. While the overall mystery behind who might be following Martin and what are the motives behind capturing the legendary Tasmanian Tiger is sort of a small payoff, the devastating results are powerfully sad yet appropriately believable. The journey of THE HUNTER, while perhaps sometimes too understated, works.
Video: (1080p 2.35:1) The landscape is beautiful and the Blu-ray of THE HUNTER captures it wonderfully.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The track in THE HUNTER is very minimal but picks up on the nuances of bugs, sticks, leaves, wind among others in nature.
Audio Commentary: Director Daniel Nettheim and Producer Vincent Sheehan give lots of technical information about THE HUNTER but it comes off pretty dry. I recommending skipping this and just watching the Making Of featurette.
Making of The Hunter (32:50): This is a little better than your typical making of feature that adds a lot of insight into the story, characters and of course the elusive Tasmanian Tiger.
Deleted Scenes (6:39): Seven short deleted scenes that build the characters in THE HUNTER (mostly dealing with Sam Neill’s character) a little more with optional commentary.