For fans of actor Willem Dafoe, his latest film -- The Hunter -- is about as good as it gets. It's one part adventure, another deep character study and also a look at the human race and how it responds to past mistakes.
Dafoe plays a for-hire hunter, one of the best in the world. His latest gig sends him to Tasmania in search of an animal that science says is extinct, the Tasmanian Tiger. Although, there have been locals who spout a legend about having seen one in the dense forests of the region. If Dafoe's hunter can get DNA from the beast, his employer can not only bring the beast back, but harness a toxin known to exist in the animal's blood that can be weaponized.
When Dafoe gets to the area, all of his, and ours as the audience, expectations for what lies ahead is completely altered. What appeared to be an expert tracker story becomes a human interest tale as the title character becomes engrossed in the lives of the family that owns the house where he is renting a room.
There is still plenty of adventure and watching Dafoe give one of the most powerful performances of his career is alone worth the price of admission. The film's best moments are when the actor is alone in the forest channeling a man possessed with concluding his job successfully as always.
The mystery of whether the elusive Tasmanian Tiger is found will have to be witnessed on iTunes where the film has made its debut or in theaters when it arrives April 6. But the question the film raises about us as humans is profound and one this writer is still contemplating.
Say word spread of an extinct animal sighting. How would we as a species respond? Could greed enter the equation? Would we eventually destroy it again anyway? And when we have the opportunity to amend past errors, should we make amends or is simply coming to grips with the mistake enough?
The Hunter is a put-you-in-the-moment film. As such there are countless establishing shots that are gorgeous, but all told make the film 30 minutes longer than necessary. Also, although we adore Sam Neill’s work, perhaps his character has a place in the story, but as utilized in the film, he is more a respite in a familiar face storyline versus the individual whom the entire film should essentially be hanging on.
Yet with the tremendous talent of its lead actor, The Hunter is worth the wait. When the film reaches its pinnacle, through Dafoe’s face alone, we feel the pull of an entire story’s weight.