Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Hunter (2011) 2.5 of 4

mostly synopsis:
This one bears some plot similarities to the Matt Damon film Promised Land (which I haven't seen).  Willem Dafoe plays a professional hunter who's hired by a big-money corporation to venture into the wilds of Tasmania, an island off southeast Australia, to find the last Tasmanian tiger -- not for environmental reasons, but for industrial profit -- the tiger is said to excrete a unique toxin which may have great value.  The tiger is said to be extinct, but Martin (Dafoe) finds the task even harder than it sounds: he's renting a room from a depressed mom with kids, their husband/father having disappeared in the woods.  The local loggers may have killed this man, and they threaten Martin, telling him "Greenies" aren't welcome.  Since his mission is secret, Martin makes no attempt to correct the misperception, and indeed he becomes sympathetic both to the Lucy and her kids and their neo-hippie friends.  Trying to avoid the loggers, Martin settles into a rhythm: two weeks in the forest, then a few days back at the house.  He helps Lucy get better, getting her off the pills brought by her supposed friend Jack (Sam Neill).  We'll learn that Jack is trying to play all sides.  Martin tries to avoid taking sides, but that becomes impossible.  He finds the husband's remains and belongings, and later is himself assaulted by another, younger hunter hired by the corporation to replace him.  At gunpoint, Martin agrees to lead the new man to the tiger den he's found, but guides him into a steel trap, then shoots him.  Martin returns to the settlement to find Lucy and her daughter have died in a fire, probably set by the man he's shot.  Martin decides there's only one way to end all this madness: he goes to the den, waits, and kills the last of the Tasmanian tigers.  Martin weeps over the dead creature, then calls his boss and tells him, "What you want is gone forever."  Martin then goes to find Lucy's son, presumably to adopt him.

mostly review:
Another downbeat film about endings and grief: we get a lot of these in the millenium.  A good film, mainly for its interesting plot and for the effective casting of Dafoe and location filming in Tasmania.  The drama is more questionable -- if we care, it's because of the situation: jobs and environment threatened, a loved one missing, the mysterious involvement of corporations, etc.  In some ways, the film is reminiscent of the TV serial Lost: the South Pacific setting, the mysteries, the answers found in a primeval cave with a spring (the site of the tiger's den).  Of course, this film pays off its story more than Lost.
There is one memorable moment of character drama, when Lucy awakes from her depressed slumber.  She hears Bruce Springsteen playing and sees that the power's back on in the house, wanders outside and assumes the man celebrating with her kids is her returning husband.  Of course, and as we know, it's really Martin.  A potentially devastating moment, but it's really a throwaway here, this movie has more global issues on its mind.
The music bears comment.  Martin prefers classical music, whereas the dead husband had speakers in the trees, planning to have idyllic concerts for all of the locals.  He had "too many ideas," says Lucy.  The only other thing we know about him was that he, too, was probably working for the corporation, looking for the tiger.  So the fact that Martin plays classical records indicates he is an older type of man, a classical man, and lacking the distraction of naive utopianism, and other modernisms.  He's the man to sort out this situation.  He's also a man of few words, who keeps his own counsel.  This is not a film that's impressed with people who voice their political views.  It is a film about actions, not words.
Some will find it too solemn, too poker-faced, but I thought it worked on its own terms, an eco-fable that doesn't trust liberals any more than conservatives.    

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