To re-invent an average Tabasco sauce with a new invigorated spice level might seem delectable to gourmands. Similarly to re-invent a story line which existed in popular culture for over 6 decades is nothing short of rare. Amazon Prime’s “Hunters” just like “The Man In The High Castle” wants the viewer to believe that the Nazi propaganda and influence remains after the 2nd World War. In “Hunters” it’s the 1970’s America. On the basis of this, crime genre pioneer Jordan Peele and his team create a unique, funny and crazy world filled with colorful characters. Seeped in Jewish as well as Nazi traditions, “Hunters” is a fascinating escape of sorts in the over-convoluted world of digital content.
“Hunters” is written by debutante writer David Weil and stars superstar Al Pacino, Saul Rubinek, Lena Olin and a host of seasoned actors including Dylan Baker and the main protagonist played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson films). The show has Jordan Peele (“Us”, “Get Out”) as its executive producer. The show is now streaming in India on Amazon Prime. It has a total of 10 episodes ranging from 50 to 90 minutes.
What is the idea behind “Hunters” ?
“Hunters” essentially creates the suspense and intrigue on the Nazi sleeper cells operating in 1970’s America. Post 1945, most of them have immigrated to the USA and are even working as very high officials in the US Government. A group of good hearted crime ‘hunters’ has taken shape in the 1970’s New York City which comprises persecuted Jews who aim to avenge the death of their family and friends during the times of Hitler and Third Reich in Germany. It is led by millionaire businessman Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino). He builds a team of do-gooders to take down each and every Nazi and Neo-Nazi in the US. They call their operation The Hunt. They are pursued by FBI Agent Millie Morris (Jerrika Hinton). The lead protagonist is Jonah Hiedelbaum (Logan Lerman) who is recruited by Offerman to join “The Hunt”.
The Romance for Ant-Nazi content
Hollywood and global cinema look at the Nazi years in Germany as the darkest period in modern history. Right from “Schindler’s List” made by Steven Spielberg in 1993 to “Inglorious Basterds” by Quentin Tarantino in 2009, the portrayal of Nazis as ultimate villainy and a threat to humanity is quite visible. In fact, TV Shows like Amazon’s “The Man In The White Castle” talks of the “Fourth Reich” in the US. The suffering of Jews and other citizens around Hitler’s rule of Germany have given wings to international stories such as “Life Is Beautiful” which won big at the 1997 Oscars. One can say that the “Neo Nazi” content was bought to a global audience by Tarantino in “Inglorious Basterds” where he showed that Hitler is killed in a cinema hall ambush. Even in fictional comics such as “The X-Men”, Magneto, the super villain traces his origins from a concentration camp in WW2. . But “Hunters” is quite similar to “Apt Pupil” in 1998 which had Sir Ian McKellen as a hiding SS General uncovered by his teen neighbor in USA.
How is “Hunters” different ?
The show creates a deep dive in two parallel timelines. One is the 1970’s USA where the story is based and the other is the 1940’s Germany. Each major character in the show who have aged talk of their sufferings in the war and the atrocities they faced in Germany and other countries. For instance, the show talks of Jonah’s grand mom who herself was one of the Jewish survivors to flee to the USA. The narrative focuses a lot on her, her trials and tribulations at a concentration camp, her horrors and her escape to a better life. “Hunters” creates a sizeable number of characters who have a rich back story and quite compellingly ‘gives credence to their rage’. Its this seesawing of two parallel timelines which dominate the show’s storytelling. The ensemble of “The Hunt” is quite colorful. A reclusive millionaire, a student, a once hot actor, an MI6 trained nun, an old Jewish couple,a Vietnam war veteran gives the viewer a feel of the 1970’s and its cultural outbursts. They are all portrayed in the superb opening titles.
Why the 1970’s as a setting ?
David Weil must have had logic issues while portraying Nazi-conflict. Firstly, 1970’s is a time where America is being pulled in different directions. The Cold war is at its peak.In the show, there is a creative leap by which The Watergate scandal is portrayed as a Nazi initiative. Secondly, there are growing hate crimes against African-Americans and violence is rising. And Lastly, one can expect a mid 20’s or 30’s Nazi officer to be ‘reasonably aged’ to carry out crimes in the 1970’s. That gave the show a lot of creative liberties. You cant really have a show like this set “Hunters” is stylized as an event with clothing design, color correction created bespoke for the 70’s experimental era. One can see kids in college listening to Jimi Hendrix music.
The Jordan Peele factor in “Hunters”
Jordan Peele has clearly established his mastery in ‘portrayal of a crime’ rather than just the crime. Be it “Get Out” or “Us”, he creates unique situations for normal people. Eg. In “Get Out” , the protagonist played by Daniel Kaluuya encounters a regular family of his ‘white’ girlfriend who are actually serial killers. Similarly in ‘Us’, Lupita Nyango’ meets her evil twin who is less fortunate than her. Peele uses racial discrimination as a tool for ‘horror’ rather than using ghosts, aliens etc. In “Hunters”, the way the Nazi’s are killed resembles the Peele style of killing. Eg. A former Nazi turned NASA scientist is killed in her shower chamber by using a poisonous gas. The investigating officer jokes that she has been “gassed” to death. Here it is a clear reference to the gas chambers used in the concentration camps. In yet another sequence, a former Nazi is fed ‘shit’ until she pukes to death. These ritualistic style portrayals might have been created from the involvement of Peele who is himself creating alternate and yet brilliant storytelling techniques in his work.
The show has stunning performances. Al Pacino as the complex Meyer Offerman looks brilliant, he has aced the Jewish look and accent perfectly. Logan Lerman as Jonah shines in his role as he transitions from a reluctant student to a decisive campaigner. Greg Austin as the ruthless Travis Leich looks Nazi at all levels, Jerrika Hinton as FBI Agent Millie Morris impresses with her struggles as an African American ‘woman’ agent. Dylan Baker as Biff Simpson is as terrifying as Christoph Waltz in “Inglorious Basterds”.
I would give “Hunters” an 8 out of 10 as it creates an out of the box concept which is believable. The show looks a bit drag around the 5th episode and has a 90 minute Pilot. But its final episodes pack a punch. This show will have quite a few Emmy nominations.