The location is the Tasmanian wilderness, the target is the last Tasmanian Tiger and the hunter is Martin (Willem Dafoe), a mercenary hired by a mysterious biotech company. Adapted from the 1999 novel by Julia Leigh, the writer/director of Sleeping Beauty, The Hunter is one part existential meditation on the male psyche and one part metaphor for the damage humanity has done to the natural world.
In the background of the film is the conflict between protesting environmentalists and loggers angry about losing their jobs. While the film does represent the loggers as intimidating, they are ultimately harmless compared to the ruthless corporate interests manipulating affairs from afar.
The Hunter works best when it resembles a Werner Herzog film, with Martin alone in the wild obsessively trying to complete his mission. Less successful are the scenes where Martin gradually becomes a surrogate father and husband to the family he stays with. A couple of jarring shifts in tone distract from what is otherwise a slow burning film about a man at war with himself and his prey.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 391, 2010