We do not often see films that are not adaptations (or franchises in the style of the Dark Knight), because they are not thought safe. The Hunter, taken from Julia Leigh’s novel, is no different.
Martin David (Willem Dafoe) has a mission in Tasmania. We are led to believe that because his prey is different this time (but this mission is not unlike earlier missions) that his rough exterior is now softened by these experiences.
This film carefully prepares us for Martin with a shot of equally carefully arranged toothbrush, toothpaste and the like. So we are presented with a man who appears unprepared for the rigours of being out in the wild for – for some reason – always twelve days at a time. He doesn’t seem to be a man who would choose to be with predators and poisonous bugs and, although a hunter, he only three times, and not straightaway, pays the attention to the detail necessary for tracking – but tracking is what he is commissioned to do.
If his forays were not interlaced with stunning wide-shots, swooping helicopter
footage, and time-lapse photography of clouds scudding right to left (and left to right), the banality of what Martin does would be unbearable.
He kills and guts Kanga, and bait traps with her organs, and we have little engagement with this but must assume this bait is designed to attract his prey.
The Hunter does have some contact with humans amongst all his tracking duties, those humans being Lucy (Frances O’Connor), and her children Katie (or Sass, played by Morgana Davies) and the silent, but communicative, Jamie (credited as Bike, but really Finn Woodlock).
With these people, Martin now professes himself an expert in depressive moods, and cures Lucy in the span of a twelve-day trip to the wilderness by declaring that she can discontinue her medication but there is little reason why either party should be interested in the other. Nevertheless, that interaction is meant to provide some insight into his true mission and what life is really about.
Needless to say, this is less than satisfactory. The Hunter would only gain a two torch rating if not for the stunning scenery.