Martin David (Willem Dafoe) is a hired hunter, searching the Tasmanian wilds for the last sighted Tasmanian tiger. Faking his way into the life of a small town, he annoys the local unemployed riffraff who dislike outsiders and finds himself holed up with the Armstrong family. Can he find the tiger, please his bosses, and get out of Tasmania in one piece?
The Armstrong family is complicated. The mother Lucy (Frances O’Connor) has a prescription addiction that keeps her from mothering her children, capricious Sass (Morgana Davies) and silent Bike (Finn Woodlock). Their pain is in part due to the absence of their father, still missing in the wilderness. David’s arrival tears scabs off but also provides salve to those open sores.
David’s intrusion also rubs a family friend, Jack (Sam Neill), the wrong way, and confrontation is bound to occur. Still, we’re counting on Dafoe’s David to solve the riddle of the tiger and figure out the family dynamics. He’s not necessarily principled, but he’s a solitary figure who figures out that if he’s going to live in community, he has to do his part. What that part is and how he’ll handle the responsibility is what makes the story play out.
In the special features of the high definition thriller, you can watch the parts come together (Tasmania, the characters, the plot, etc.) Outside of that, there’s commentary from the director and producer, with deleted scenes. But the focus here is seeing the movie of beautiful Tasmania in high definition.
For the story, David’s awareness that his mission might be different than his calling, that who he is should be different than what he does, makes this one pretty thrilling. When the hunter becomes the hunted, it changes the dynamic. And when the hunter recognizes that there’s no “just” collateral damage, it changes how the hunt plays out. Thanks to Dafoe, we see this character study thrive.