Directors: Taika Waititi
Running Time: 101 minutes
Main Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison
It took just the few seconds into the opening scene and the first bars of the score to be played and that was enough for a quirky New Zealand film by the name of Hunt for the Wilderpeople to have me hooked and as the film progressed i asked myself “why had I not watched this before!”
Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows a basic storyline of a national manhunt for the rebellious Ricky (Julian Dennison) and his foster uncle Hec (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park) as they try to escape the authorities in the New Zealand Wilderness.
It’s the little nuances that make Hunt for the Wilderpeople such a unique film and is a fresh experience to what is experienced when watching the films that are pumped out by big studios regularly. It’s a small film with a small budget and a simple storyline and it is quite refreshing. Written and Directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, 2014) and he has done an outstanding job with how the film has ultimately turned out. Each camera shot is shaped by Waititi, who combines with cinematographer Lachlan Milne (Down Under, 2016) to make sure every camera shot encapsulates not only his characters, but also the beautiful New Zealand Wilderness, creating a perfect balance.
The film is also well edited, in its own quirky way. One example of this very nuanced approach was the use of a pan shot and having characters appear on screen walk as if they are normally walking before they exit as the pan passes them and then again they would appear as the pan continued. It looked quite simple but editors Tom Eagles, Yana Gorskaya and Luke Haigh have done extremely well with this concept to make it work seamlessly and look visually appealing. They are also able to combine Lukasz Pawel Buda, Samuel Scott and Conrad Wedde score to make it seem subtle when it needed to and be the centre of attention when it suited.
The casting of Sam Neill and Julian Dennison was a masterstroke for this film. You have the rebellious and cheeky little kid Ricky played outstandingly by Dennison. He has the ability in this film to make you laugh or smile without having to do too much, one example of this was that he named his Dog Tupac and every time he said “come Tupac” you couldn’t help but laugh. There are plenty of examples to explain how good his performance was.
Then you have the cold and distant Hec, played wonderfully by Sam Neill, the star of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. But this is a far different film than the big budget Spielberg classic, and Neill seems to shift down his character into a serious nature at the beginning before, we start to see him open up, which in itself is a relief as you begin to relate to Hec more. It was difficult to connect with his character in the beginning, but as the film progressed and he began to open up his character, Neill was then able to draw you in.
The choice of having Neill and Dennison playing completely different characters allows for balance on screen, and a chemistry that doesn’t seem to be there until the middle of the film. By this point the tension is removed form Neill’s Hec and it becomes clearer to see the beautiful nature of this film.
From start to finish Hunt for the Wilderpeople will have you hooked with its nuances and its quirky storyline, cinematography, editing and score. Its characters will make you laugh and smile throughout the whole film, and will make you unaware of how attached you get to Ricky and Hec. This is simply a must watch with the family or if you are looking for that pick me up with your film choice.
The Front Row Opinion