Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★½

Mike and Dave's Scavenger Hunt, Vol 2.5!: The Hunt for (a) Red October | A title with the word "Hunt", "Red" or "October" in it

Taika Waititi had already emerged as a terrific talent with projects like What We Do In the Shadows, Boy and Eagle Vs Shark (the latter two I must check out), but with this winning hit and the upcoming Thor sequel under his belt, he's becoming a household name. There's just something about him that makes me smile. Is it that adorable face whose cheeks I just want to pinch? Is it his deliriously witty and humorous approach to life's smaller, meaningful moments? Is it his ability to be a team player, aligning himself with some of the most talented people in the world, most of whom I barely know?

<checks the box marked "all of the above">

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is seriously charming, folks. What makes it so successful is the casting of Julian Dennison and Sam Neill as two loners thrown together in the bush, forced to thrive and survive with only a limited amount of supplies and each other. It's an age-old formula but it works magnificently because these two actors ground the film. We have many distractions, like the overzealous lady from child services heading the manhunt, or hunters desperate for the reward, or fans of the now-famous duo asking for autographs. These are amusing diversions, but they detract from the film's biggest strength: Neill and Dennison, leaning on one another after the tragic loss of the most important person in their lives.

Sam Neill, especially, is a revelation. Now here's an actor we've been watching for almost 30 years. I remember him vividly in 1989's Dead Calm, playing Nicole Kidman's husband and fending off a homicidal Billy Zane aboard their sailboat. Neill has appeared in many big projects over the years, but has mostly kept a low profile with bit parts in smaller films. Hunt for the Wilderpeople features the most acting I've seen Neill do in many, many years. I am reminded of what a great talent he is. 

It's a beautiful performance, and a lovely film.

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