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Film / The Hunter

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Some mysteries should never be solved.

The Hunter is a 2011 Australian Drama Thriller film starring Willem Dafoe. Dafoe plays Martin David, a professional mercenary who is hired by a mysterious organisation known as Red Leaf. He has been sent to Tasmania to illegally hunt down the last remaining Tasmanian tiger, intending to collect DNA samples, due to the alleged properties of the tiger's venom.

During his time in Tasmania, he stays with a strange family, consisting of two children, Sass and Bike, and their mother, Lucy (Frances O'Connor), who appears to be asleep most of the time. Their father, Jarrah, disappeared in the bush several months before. They are cared for by a family friend, Jack Mindy (Sam Neill), who also offers to guide Martin around the forest.

Martin poses as a scientist looking to research the Tasmanian devil. He spends much of the film in the Tasmanian wilderness laying traps for the elusive creature. However, things get ugly when the local townsfolk begin to suspect that he's up to something...

It’s also based on a novel of the same name by Julia Leigh

Not related to Steve McQueen's last movie The Hunter (1980).

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The book and the film have the hunt resolve similarly but have different conclusions for the subplot with the family Martin is staying with. In the book, Sass becomes a full-time resident of a children's hospital after narrowly surviving a house fire, her mother descends fully into addiction, and Bike is taken away by social services. In the film, Lucy and Sass don't make it out of the burning house and it is implied that Martin adopts Bike.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Sass wears pink in most of her scenes and is an earnest and innocent Cheerful Child despite some Wise Beyond Their Years moments.
  • Alas, Poor Yorick: Martin finds Jarrah's remains and holds the skull like this.
  • Anti-Hero: Martin is a pragmatic antihero undertaking a dubious and illegal job but then develops some scruples.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Tasmanian tigers likely did not have "toxins" in their saliva that would be useful to anyone. It could be Hand Waved that we don't know everything about Tasmanian tigers simply because they weren't studied enough while they were alive. Whether or not certain animals are venomous (lorises, Komodo dragons, etc.) is also actually a common point of contention in the toxicology sphere.
  • Australian Wildlife: Martin is tasked by a shady organisation to track the Tasmanian Tiger aka the Thylacine — an extinct species of carnivores marsupial.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: While the hunting scenes are grueling the film would probably be a pretty safe PG-13 if it wasn't for a liberal sprinkling of F words.
  • Bad Guy Bar: The bar that Martin finds is full of loggers who aren't big fans of "greenies" and they give Martin a hard time thinking he's a scientist. Downplayed in the end as the loggers (probably) aren't really that bad. The worst thing they do is shoot into the air to intimidate people. They may be responsible for the fire at Lucy's house, but that also could have been a genuine accident or the work of the second hunter.
  • Bear Trap: Martin sets many of these to catch the Tasmanian tiger.
  • Book Ends: At the start of the film, Martin is told by his employer to "See the sights", while waiting for work. At the end, Martin calls Red Leaf to inform them the tiger is gone, saying "Don't bother looking for me. I'm going to see the sights."
  • Chekhov's Gun: Jarrah's metal water bottle, the steel traps.
    • Martin leaving his coordinates with the family whenever he goes out.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The second man that sits in on the meeting Martin has with the employer comes back in the third act to forcibly finish Martin's job.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Done casually by an eight year old girl:
    Sass: Dad says the fucking fucker's fucked!
  • Cold Sniper: Martin takes a sniper rifle with him on his hunts for the tiger, and is a reserved man taking a morally ambiguous job. The hunter who is sent to replace him plays the trope even straighter, as he’s willing to threaten humans and lacks the qualms Martin develops about the hunt.
  • Company Town: The local town owes its existence to the logging company, which is why many locals harass Martin and Lucy due to their (initially feigned, in Martin’s case) environmentalism.
  • Cute Mute: Bike never speaks throughout the entire film.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the original novel Lucy and Sass both survive the fire, although their lives don't go very smoothly afterward.
  • Doomed Predecessor: Sass and Bike’s father Jarrah ventured into the forest in search of the last Tasmanian tiger after being hired by the same company that Martin works for. He told his children that he saw the tiger once, but eventually he abandoned his mission for the Red Leaf company to try and find the tiger strictly for environmental preservation reasons. About a year before the beginning of the movie, he went on another search expedition and never came back. Martin hears about Jarrah's work several times and eventually finds his skeleton, which has a bullet hole through its skull. Unlike most doomed predecessors, it’s never revealed who killed Jarrah. It could have been the company he quit working for, hunters from a rival company after the tiger, the loggers whose jobs he was threatening, or a random hunter who shot him by accident while hunting non-endangered animals.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When Martin finally comes face to face with the Thylacine, instead of trying to escape it lowers it’s head and appears to allow itself to be shot.
  • Green Aesop: A part of Martin's main character arc. As Martin gets closer to the family he also begins to empathize with the environment and distance himself from his mission. When he does eventually kill the tiger it is not to complete his mission but to prevent Red Leaf from getting their hands on it.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Martin, arguably, as he begins to care more for the family he is staying with than his illegal mission and then betrays the organization he works for.
  • I Miss Mom: Sass and Bike clearly care about their missing father, with Sass fondly mentioning him at every opportunity, insisting that he'll be back soon, and asking Martin to look for signs of him in the woods.
  • I Work Alone: Martin refuses to let another hunter accompany him as backup and sends away his local guide as soon as he has a basic understanding of the new terrain.
  • Last of His Kind: The Tasmanian Tiger Martin pursues is the only one left, allegedly.
  • Left Hanging: It's never explained who damaged Martin's trap or who set up the camera trap.
  • Manly Facial Hair: Martin has a well-trimmed beard and is a stoic, brave, and cunning hunter of dangerous animals.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The look on Martin's face right after he shoots the tiger.
  • Native Guide: Jack Mindy is a local man who sets Martin up with a place to stay, and guides him into the mountains until Martin feels familiar enough with them to continue on his own. He’s also monitoring Martin for Red Leaf, and Martin is a bit unhappy about this due to having secrets to keep.
  • Never Found the Body: Jarrah. Subverted when Martin does eventually find his remains.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: Despite the Thylacine being a real animal, in the film it is treated as a very mysterious and almost mythical creature.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The company that hires Martin is called Red Leaf. Red as in blood. Leaf being a symbol for nature.
  • Scenery Porn: The Tasmanian wilderness provides plenty.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Implied. When Martin tries to rent a room in town, the publican says his rooms are all occupied and he won't evict any of his regular tenants even if Martin pays triple what they do. However, it's unclear if this is out of principle or reluctance to accommodate a supposed environmentalist in a community that depends on logging.
  • Shoot the Dog: Martin shoots the endangered tiger ]]
  • Shown Their Work: At one point Jack asks Martin if the Tasmanian devils he saw were healthy. This is likely a reference to the real life devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) that is running rampant in wild devil populations.
  • Snow Means Death: While it is clearly getting colder beforehand, it doesn't start snowing until Martin's confrontation with (and subsequent shooting of) the Red Leaf agent. The snow continues during Martin's final hunt and killing of the tiger.
  • Those Two Guys: Simon and Free, the main two anti-logging protestors, have some casual banter and always appear together.
  • Wham Shot:
    • When the loggers harass the environmentalists gathered at the Armstrong home, there's a shot of Jack Mindy in the back of one of their trucks, keeping his head down.
    • When Martin finds Jarrah's body in the mountains, he finds one of Bike's sketches in Jarrah's jacket and then sees the logo of the Red Leaf Corporation on it, revealing they've been after the tiger longer than previously implied and that Jarrah worked for them before becoming an environmentalist.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Katie/Sass is an eight-year-old girl with an Adorably Precocious Child look (she's introduced hanging around the house in pink pajamas and rain boots), but she's casual about dropping swear words and she's the one who shows Martin around the house and educates him about the various utilities while her mother is passed out.