Monday, June 26, 2017
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the story of a troubled young boy who is sent to foster care where he finds an unlikely father figure in a cantankerous man as they get into trouble by the authorities as they flee into bushes of New Zealand. Written for the screen and directed by Taika Waititi, the film is a genre bender of adventure and comedy where a boy and a man who initially wanted nothing to do with each other become this unlikely duo who don’t play by the rules. Starring Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Waita, and Rachel House. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a witty and heartfelt film from Taika Waititi.
The film is a simple story of a teenage boy who is sent to live with a foster family where things go wrong prompting the boy and his new-foster uncle to go on the run into the New Zealand bushes with their dogs as a manhunt ensues for the two. It’s a film that is an adventure story of sorts yet it is really about this boy and this cantankerous man who is reluctant to be the uncle for this kid yet realizes the boy’s worth and what he has to do help him. Taika Waititi’s screenplay, with contributions from Te Arepa Kahi, explores this unique family situation where Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) arrives to this farm ran by a woman named Bella (Rima Te Waita) and her husband Hector (Sam Neill). For Ricky, he had been in a bunch of foster families all over New Zealand as he’s been causing trouble in places as his arrival to his home has him expecting another bad situation. Yet, Bella would be this very positive and loving figure for Ricky as it gives him something he’s never had but it would all change when child welfare want Ricky back and take him to a juvenile prison which Ricky refuses to go.
Hector isn’t keen on taking care of Ricky but upon realizing that Ricky and his new dog Tupac is lost in the bushes, he would find him as more trouble ensues when it is believed that Hector kidnapped Ricky. It’s not just these authorities such as the police and a child welfare officer named Paula (Rachel House) that are after Hector and Ricky but also three hunters the two encountered earlier as there’s a bounty for the two. During the course of the story, Ricky and Hector would have this bond in not just surviving the bushes with their dogs but also in each other as Hector is a man that has a hard time fitting into the world as he is still dealing with things as well as why he was reluctant to have Ricky in his life. During the course of evading the authorities, the two would become heroes in and around New Zealand though there’s some that think of them as just bad people where Ricky would find himself confronting Paula in one scene as it’s very funny due to the pop culture references mentioned in the scene.
Waititi’s direction definitely has some gorgeous visuals as a lot of it is shot in the areas in the Central Plateau and Waitakere Ranges in New Zealand with some of it shot in small towns in the country. The bushes in the film are definitely a major character as it provide this sense of a world that is completely disconnected from society which seems fitting as both Ricky and Hector are kind of outcasts who don’t fit in with the conventions of society. While Waititi would use some wide shots for these locations, he favors more intimate compositions with the usage of medium shots and close-ups as he would create unique framing that play into the growing bond between Ricky and Hector. There are also these amazing shots in which Waititi would use a tripod to shoot around the surroundings as it is among some of the most beautiful shots in the film as it play into some of the humor but also moments that are quite serious.
Even in scenes that are quite chilling including an encounter with a wild boar and other moments that are quite adventurous show Waititi emphasizing on the scale of the manhunt for the two as it would give Ricky and Hector the chance to deal with these setbacks and such. There are also these moments that are quite offbeat which include a brief animated sequence directed by Caroline Ting as it relates to this manhunt led by Paula as well as a moment early in the film where Ricky is lost in the woods as he becomes hungry. It’s part of Waititi’s own brand of humor where it’s not forced in order to get a laugh but rather play into some of the absurdity that goes on throughout the film. Yet, Waititi doesn’t use any of that to get to the importance of the story as it feature a lot of heart as it relates to this very unlikely relationship between a man and a boy that don’t have anything in common other than just being outcasts. Overall, Waititi creates an exhilarating yet heartfelt film about a teenage boy and a man hiding out in the bushes of New Zealand from some very bad people.
Cinematographer Lachlan Milne does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of natural light for some of the film’s exterior scenes including some in the bushes as well as the interior lighting in a few scenes inside the home of a few characters Ricky and Hector would meet. Editors Luke Haigh, Tom Eagles, and Yana Gorskaya do excellent work for utilizing some stylish cuts such as jump-cuts and dissolves while creating a few inventive montages that add to the film’s unique tone. Production designer Neville Stevenson and art director Jon Lithgow do amazing work with the look of the farm Ricky lived in with Hector and Bella as well as the home of a family he encounters and ranger huts he and Hector would find. Costume designer Kristen Seth does fantastic work with the costumes from the hip-hop inspired clothing that Ricky wears to the more rugged look of Hector as much of it is casual.
Hair/makeup designer Dannielle Satherley does nice work with the look of a few characters including Hector and a reclusive man known as Psycho Sam. Visual effects supervisor Kevin Andrew Smith does terrific work with the look of a few moments of visual effects that include a hilarious scene of hallucination from Ricky as well as the eerie moment with the wild boar. Sound designer Dick Reade does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the bushes as well as the sound of gunfire and such that add to some of the chaos as well as moments of humor. The film’s music by Lukasz Buda, Samuel Scott, and Conrad Wedde is incredible for its mixture of low-key electronic music as well as some folk and piano-based music that give the film different flavors in the music to play into New Zealand’s diverse musical culture while music supervisor Natalie Wilson creates a fun soundtrack that features music from acts like Moniker, Bob Marley, the Alessi Brothers, and Leonard Cohen.
The casting by Stuart Turner is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Taika Waititi as a funny minister, Hamish Parkinson as a police official talking about a device that would help Paula, the trio of Cohen Halloway, Stan Walker, and Mike Minogue as hunters who meet Ricky and Hector only to hunt them down for the bounty later on, Troy Kingi as Maori man who is excited about Ricky in his house, and Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne as Maori girl named Kahu that Ricky falls for as she lets him stay at his house for a night. Oscar Kightley is terrific as a dim-witted officer named Andy who often accompanies Paula as he’s treated like an idiot though it is clear he’s not as dim as she thinks he is. Rhys Darby is superb as Psycho Sam as this recluse who would help Ricky and Hector in the third act as he has some issues toward the authority as well as the government. Rachel House is excellent as Paula as a child welfare official who is determined to bring Ricky to juvenile detention as she isn’t this conventional antagonist but rather someone who believes in this idea of not leaving any child behind as it’s a very funny performance to watch.
Rima Te Waita is brilliant as Bella as Hector’s wife who is this warm figure that would bring a positive world to Ricky as well as provide a sense of importance to Ricky and Hector. Finally, there’s the duo of Sam Neill and Julian Dennison in tremendous performances in their respective roles as Hector and Ricky. Dennison’s performance is so lively as well as being quite funny in some of the hip-hop slang he says as well as being a quick learner in surviving the bushes as it’s a very engaging performance for someone that could’ve been grating but his development into someone trying to survive as well as needing a father figure is key to Dennison’s winning performance. Neill’s performance as Hector is definitely complex as someone who starts off as quiet and cantankerous as someone who doesn’t want to deal with people but he does have this toughness into his performance as someone who did go to prison as well as weariness of someone who has been through a lot and is trying to help Ricky survive the bushes. Neill and Dennison together are a joy to watch in the way they build up the relationship with Dennison as the funny guy and Neill as the straight man as they’re a major highlight of the film.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a phenomenal film from Taika Waititi that feature sensational performances from Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. Along with a great supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, a touching yet witty story, and a fantastic music soundtrack. It’s a film that isn’t just this exciting and funny adventure film but also a film with a lot of heart as it play into the unlikely relationship between a man and a boy who are outcasts in modern society. In the end, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an outstanding film from Taika Waititi.
Taika Waititi Films: Two Cars, One Night - Eagle vs. Shark - Boy (2010 film) - What We Do in the Shadows - Thor: Ragnarok - Auteurs #64: Taika Waititi
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