Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter is a dark, brooding film that depends just as much on scenes of silence as it does on scenes of dialogue. Half of the film is simply a man hunting in the woods, setting traps and trying to find signs of his prey, while the other half incorporates a more human element into the story. Both of these are interesting parts of the story, which makes it unfortunate when they don’t end up getting put together particularly well.
Martin David (Willem Dafoe) has been hired by a company to travel to the outback of Tasmania, Australia in order to hunt the last known Tasmanian Tiger from which he’s supposed to collect samples and then destroy the rest. While there, he stays with Lucy (Frances O’Connor) and her two kids. Lucy’s husband mysteriously disappeared in the wilderness not long before Martin’s arrival, giving him suspicions that he may have been attempting the same task.
Martin searches all throughout the outback looking for any clues of the animal’s existence, something that slowly begins to manifest itself in small ways such as the leftover carcass of an animal and a cave that Martin believes to have been used as a den. Meanwhile, as he spends more time with Lucy and her kids, he finds himself growing closer to them, which he tries not to allow to distract him from his mission.
What’s interesting about The Hunter is how the two stories that it’s comprised of could quite possibly make a good movie on their own, yet there’s something about this attempt to merge the two that gives the film a feeling of trying to be two movies in one. The film randomly jumps back and forth between Martin’s time with Lucy and the kids and his work in the wilderness, giving it a feeling of awkward juxtaposition as the two stories remain separated throughout almost the entire movie.
They do eventually come together near the end of the film, and pretty well too, which merely makes one wonder why they didn’t try to incorporate them into each other much earlier to allow a smoother transition and pacing from scene to scene instead of completely dropping one story and picking up the other over and over. There’s also the question of why there is a random subplot about the forest being torn down by loggers thrown in there when it ends up going nowhere and is never developed.
The hunting scenes are done quite well with Robert Humphreys’s cinematography showing off the amazing beauty of the Tasmanian outback. These scenes also hold particular interest because we get to watch as Martin forms complex traps using simple things like trees, twigs, and twine, though he also uses standard bear traps as well. Some may find these scenes slow, but for others, they will hold attention out of wonder at what Martin will find during the hunt.
On the flip side, the human elements are also done nicely. Dafoe gives a well-controlled performance that slowly shows how he is becoming affected by his time with Lucy. As the film goes on, you can see the decisions regarding his mission becoming harder and harder as he wants to spend more time with her while coming to a troubling conclusion about what the company who hired him is willing to do to get what they want.
The Hunter is mostly well-done, but where I would normally say “it never comes together,” I actually have to say it comes together too late. There’s a good movie in here, and I’m certainly not going to tell you to avoid it, but if the screenplay by Alice Addison and Wain Fimeri had been able to integrate these stories better, then this could have been a great film instead of just an ok film.
As for the Blu-Ray itself, the video is presented in a 2.35:1, 1080p transfer. The quality of the picture seemed a little fuzzier than most Blu-Rays and looked abnormally brighter. This didn’t prove too much of a problem though, as it is still sharper than your standard DVD. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is very high quality, allowing every little sound to come through loud and clear. This comes in handy particularly for the scenes in the wilderness that depend on ambient noise.
The disc comes with the following special features:
- Making of The Hunter: The Story, The Characters, Tasmania, The Tiger
- Deleted Scenes with Commentary
- Commentary with Director Daniel Nettheim and Producer Vince Sheehan
- Theatrical Trailer
This is actually a really good selection of special features. The deleted scenes aren’t anything particularly special, but, as usual, I find it interesting to see what they decided to leave out. There are about seven minutes worth that are just little bits that weren’t necessary to the film. A ten-minute sampling of the feature commentary shows that the director and producer actually have a lot to say about the film including how Dafoe came to be involved and where and when certain scenes were shot, along with other behind the scenes tidbits.
The special feature that’s most worth watching however is the “Making Of.” This is a 30 minute, in-depth featurette that covers several areas of the film. Various crewmembers discuss how the project came to be and how it developed in the section about The Story. The Characters section is exactly what it sounds like. Through various cast and crew interviews, we are given a good, hard look at each of the characters in the story.
The Tasmania section explores the shooting of the film in the Outback where we learn that the crew had to lug equipment through dangerous areas just to get the shots they needed. Finally, there’s a brief section about the Tasmanian Tiger that features a few interviews with locals who claim, or know someone who’s claimed, to have seen the animal, which is thought to be extinct.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: featurettes like this should be standard on all Blu-Rays. If you’re like me and are fascinated by having a look behind the scenes, then you’ll enjoy watching this, even if you don’t think the film was quite up to snuff. I was very close to recommending the film, but with special features as good as this, I can actually recommend the Blu-Ray as a whole. It doesn’t usually happen that way, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.