TL;DR – A beautifully filmed story, with real depth and heart, a great cast, and more so since the Lord of the Rings makes the most out of its New Zealand setting
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
Review – Wow, people had recommended ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ to me, but nothing prepared me for just how good it would be. It runs the gamut of emotions from humour to sadness, from absurdity to quiet contemplation, from grief to rejoicing. Wilderpeople tells the story of Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) who is a general problem child and on his last chance when he is sent out into the bush to live with Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill). Bella is a loving woman who takes an immediate shine to Ricky even though Paula (Rachel House) the social worker insists he is a problem case. Hec is a more gruff character that seems to more tolerate than actual like Ricky. It is within this framework that we get the motivation for act two and three when people are propelled forward and have to fight for what they believe in.
Where the Wilderpeople works is in its casting, everyone is bringing their A-Game to this film from Sam Neil’s stoicisms, to Rima Te Wiata’s infectious energy, to Rachel House’s absurdity that manages to walk the line and not fall into farce, and Julian Dennison nailed the lovable yet troubled Ricky. Because this casting works, it means the humour get more laughs, the sadness hit harder, and the absurdity makes you sit back and go … wait what? All of this complements the truly wonderful story, which I won’t go into because you don’t want spoilers.
The other strength of this film is New Zealand, not since Lord of the Rings have we seen the New Zealand countryside shine as we do in Wilderpeople, it becomes a character in its own right. This is complemented but some seriously wonderful cinematography, that opening sequence is a case study in how to edit a scene along with the music. They also use some really interesting 360° pans with some clever blue screen editing to show the passage of time which was a novel technique. Also, it’s just so nice to hear te reo Māori sung and it is a shame we do see more of it in the film.
This is all good but what I want to talk about is the cinematography. The opening sequence of Wilderpeople is a textbook example of how to really bring the audience into a film. You start with a stunning overhead shot of the New Zealand bush with the right music. it introduces you to the setting of the film and makes you go, I want to visit there. You then get interspersed with this a show of a police car driving up to a farm house, which could just be mundane, but all the cuts hit on the beats of the music, so it has a kind of intensity to it. Then we arrive and in a space of a minute without that much dialogue, we get to know just about all the major characters, when their personalities are, and what most of their motivations are, all in a really engaging manner.
There a couple of small things, the ending is not quite as strong as the rest of the film, and there are one or two wide shots that look a little to CGIy (characters inserting into a landscape). However, there are really minor gripes in what is a really strong film.
In the end, I highly recommend ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ it has a touching story, it is well acted, has great music, and superb cinematography. All in all, it has me really excited for the next Thor as it is being led by Wilderpeople Writer/Director Taika Waititi, and he clearly has a lot of talent.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Taika Waititi
Screenplay by – Taika Waititi
Based on – Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump
Starring – Julian Dennison, Sam Neill, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne & Rhys Darby
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; NZ: PG; USA: PG-13