Mercenary hunter Martin (Dafoe) is a loner hired by a mysterious client (Koman) to track down the last remaining Tasmanian tiger, a breed thought to be extinct. Shunned as a "greenie", he's given a room in a country home where Lucy (O'Connor) lives in isolation with her two kids (Davies and Woodlock), waiting for the return of her missing zoologist husband. With Jack (Neill) as a guide, Martin sets out to find the elusive tiger, but his efforts to avoid bonding with the family are much trickier.
The film has a moody, menacing tone that draws us in from the start. Dafoe plays Martin as a haunted man who seems spooked by Lucy's lively, curious children. He also bristles at the fact that he needs Jack to get him started, and ditches him early to continue on his own. Clearly this experience is going to bring up something he's trying desperately to keep buried inside. And Neill and O'Connor are equally raw and earthy as they quietly pick away at his defences.
What makes the film even more involving is Robert Humphreys' textured wide-screen photography, which gives Tasmania itself a lead role in the drama.
This unmapped wilderness looks like a primordial forest. The expansive landscapes are spectacular, and we wouldn't be surprised if a dinosaur leapt out from a clump of trees. Indeed, most of the creatures Martin encounters are utterly alien. And his other discoveries are truly haunting.
There isn't much dialog in the film, since much of the drama takes place beneath the surface. Through his interaction with the family, Martin seems to find a semblance of redemption for his immoral life, and through what happens in the forest he confronts the sins of colonists whose actions have led to extinction for so many species. But director Nettheim and writer Addison hold these big themes lightly, never overstating them, which makes the film much more forceful in its final kick.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 6th October 2011
Box Office USA: $0.2M
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Production compaines: Porchlight Films, Screen Australia, Screen NSW, Screen Tasmania, Fulcrum Media Finance, Madman Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Fresh: 60 Rotten: 26
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Producer: Vincent Sheehan
Screenwriter: Alice Addison
Starring: Willem Dafoe as Martin David, Frances O'Connor as Lucy Armstrong, Sam Neill as Jack Mindy, Morgana Davies as Sass Armstrong, Finn Woodlock as Bike Armstrong, Jacek Koman as Middleman, Callan Mulvey as Rival Hunter, Daniel Wyllie as Pool Player, Sullivan Stapleton as Doug, Jamie Timony as Free, Maia Thomas as Shakti
Also starring: Frances O'Connor
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