Film Review: The Hunter

Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter is an atmospheric vehicle for Willem Dafoe. The film is a slow burner, but one that is rewarding.

Martin David, a mercenary hunter, is hired by a biotech company to search for the last remaining Tasmanian tiger, believed by most to be extinct. Martin searches the wilderness for clues to the animal’s existence and whereabouts. Staying with a family close by, David may be able to ascertain clues from the father’s mysterious disappearance…

Based on the novel by Julia Leigh, The Hunter is a tale steeped in isolation. As such, the film would not work unless the central character was believable and interesting enough. Thankfully, the protagonist in The Hunter sufficiently holds the viewer’s attention. Given that he is a stoic character, there is a sense of mystery in what goes unsaid. Martin’s motives for taking the job, for example, are never really touched upon. Instead, a seemingly one-dimensional desire to complete the mission is clouded by the people he meets. Any change in Martin is entirely convincing, having been set up over the course of the film.

The narrative of The Hunter is carefully crafted. Seemingly disparate worlds are combined in a way that feels plausible. The various threads of the story are neatly tied up, with information disseminating as the plot progresses. There is a  current of environmentalism versus capitalism that runs through the film. Sometimes this is laid on thick, but most of the time it works well as a backdrop. Director Nettheim makes the most of the captivating Tasmanian landscapes. The establishing shots and long shots capture the rugged region, and do well to emphasise the sense of isolation.

Willem Dafoe offers a very strong performance as Martin. He is completely believable in the role. Elsewhere, Sam Neill is unrecognisable from his Jurassic Park days as Jack Mindy, while Finn Woodlock is great to watch as young Bike.

The Hunter creeps up on viewers slowly, winning them over with its slowly unfolding narrative and a superb performance by Willem Dafoe.

Film Review: Sleeping Beauty

Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty is an interesting experiment. The film is intriguing for the most part, but not a particularly satisfying endeavour.

Lucy is a young University student struggling with money problems. Working several jobs to pay her way, Lucy answers an advertisement for a waiting staff at private parties. The money is good, but the circumstances are bizarre. The more Lucy becomes involved with the the secretive world, the more she begins to question what is really going on…

Sleeping Beauty does not follow a conventional format. As the opening scene illustrates, the film is more like a series of scenes rather than a cohesive narrative. Some of the sequences have little to do with the overarching narrative, choosing instead to concentrate on other aspects of Lucy’s life.

Perhaps the main problem with Sleeping Beauty is that it is difficult to relate to suitably empathise with the central character. Lucy is a cold character; there is little that is personable about her. Whilst the struggling student is not an unusual character type, Lucy’s detachment means that it is hard to warm to her. Although she may be pitied in some scenes, an attachment to the protagonist is never really formed.

Sleepy Beauty features an interesting premise that is never fleshed out in a satisfying manner. The job that Lucy does is very strange, yet this is only viewed through a blighted perspective. There is a little exposition that explains why clients may opt for the service, but even this is reduced to two brief conversations. Any sense of apprehension on Lucy’s part only appears much later than it reasonably should do. Moreover, the idea of providing a service for payment and doing the same thing for free is touched upon, but never explored in any further detail.

Julia Leigh’s film treads a line between exploitation and exposition. It is necessary to depict what Lucy does, as there is so little conversation regarding this. Yet at the same time, some depictions can be considered overly gratuitous. The cinematography works well however, with the film being shot in subdued tones in keeping with the sombre theme.

Emily Browning offer a solid performance as Lucy. It is an unusual role, but Browning does a good job. Rachael Blake is also good as Clara, a rather enigmatic character. She is the most fascinating character in the film, and it is a pity that she does not receive more screen time.

Sleeping Beauty is provocative in its ability to cause discomfort in viewers, but lacks the depth and coherence to make it a great drama.

Sleeping Beauty Trailer

Not quite a fairy tale, Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty looks fascinating. Emily Browning stars as Lucy, a young student who takes a job as a ‘Sleeping Beauty’. The trailer does not reveal too much, but it looks as if the film will be disturbing. I am really looking forward to seeing this one. Sleeping Beauty is released on 14th October 2011.