TIGER FEAT IS RATHER NEAT
FOLLOWING a meeting with some shady-looking types in Paris, Martin David (Willem Dafoe) is hired by a military bio-tech company to travel to Tasmania for a very specific and delicate mission.
They want him to bring back the DNA of a Tasmanian tiger, one of the most reclusive creatures on the planet.
Though the carnivorous marsupial is thought to have been extinct for decades, there's evidence that at least one still exists, and several sightings have been reported. But once in Tasmania, David is met with hostile locals, even though they have no idea why he's there.
Their concern is that he's one of the green brigade who've been picketing their logging business, one of several thematic threads set in motion in the course of this unusual thriller.
Under the guise of researching Tasmanian Devils, David's base is a shack with no power, which he shares with a ragged family which includes a near catatonic mother and a young girl who thinks he's there to find her missing father.
A guide (Sam Neill) offers his assistance, but he goes on alone into stunning landscapes and vistas, as much scientist as hunter, as he takes his notes and shows off the skills of a highly proficient trapper.
As details are teased out about the missing man, and the reasons behind the hostility of the locals, many fine moments result, in particular a haunting scene where the girl's addled mother mistakes David for her missing husband.
Deliberately paced but never dull, the mystery builds as he finds more and more signs of outside interference in his search for the Tiger.
As a character, David makes for an intriguing paradox; clearly an unscrupulous man if he's willing to do what he does, he also turns out to be decent and caring towards the family.
Dafoe looks the part, bearded and haggard, but as a man of few words he doesn't really have much to get his teeth into, though Morgana Davies impresses with a guileless performance in the role of the young girl.
For all that though, it's perhaps too straightforward and lacking in variety and nuance, and sometimes guilty of trying to stir up drama where none exists.
But as events move towards some sort of resolution, and it must come down to David completing his assignment while looking out for the family in the midst of all the dangers he faces, the powerful grip the film exerts certainly makes it worth the investment.
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Running time: 101 mins
SEE IT IF YOU LIKED:
Walkabout; Jindabyne; The Grey