After merely ten seconds of The Hunt, the latest landmark natural documentary series from David Attenborough and the extraordinary BBC Earth team, you’re completely hooked. Watching the opening sequence of a leopard stalking a couple of impalas, we’re instantly reminded of the sheer cinematic brilliance behind these documentaries.
Aided by the peerless narration tones of Attenborough – who at nearly 90 is Britain’s most enduring and charming television personality – the cameras follow the leopard as she embarks on on getting some dinner, strategically scoping her prey in the distance as she waits in the shadows. From there, the music quickens as we see the cat approach the impala.
Unfortunately for her, their extrasensory fright prompts them to flee rapidly. But this is a leopard, a versatile carnivore with perhaps one of the deadliest hunting strategies among all lands animals – surely there can be only winner? Think again. Despite catching the impala, the prey somehow makes a miraculous escape and scurries into the vast Serengeti plains. At that moment, you can’t help but force a rye smile at the sight of a leopard failing in a hunt. So often do these very camera capture the ingenious hunting methods of big cats, it was refreshing to see them come up shy.
But this is the primary message of The Hunt. The opening episode is entitled ‘The Hardest Challenge,’ depicting the frustrating lows of being a predator. It re-shapes our perception of the unique relationship between predator and prey, providing a captivating new dynamic that sucks us in and doesn’t let go.
From there, we are treated to a white-knuckle chase between a pack of wild dogs and some wildebeest. Rampaging at 140mph for miles, the cameras fly overhead as the dogs exhibit their immense stamina and eventually wear the beests down to a crawl, encircling them and coming agonisingly close to sweet victory. However, the wildebeest have a unique method to fend off their attackers in seemingly hopeless situations, sticking together head-to-rear and pouncing any time a dog comes close, scaring them off with their size and ferocity.
After a breathless and majestic opening, the episode maintains our interest with everything from terrifying crocodiles to an astonishing aerial shot of falcons having a mass gathering among the treetops. The cinematography brings the stories of these animals to life in thrilling and awe-inspiring fashion, leaving you with a dazzled sense of ‘how the hell do they do that?’
The Hunt is another landmark piece of television to savour. And we should certainly savour it. In a modern television landscape dominated by reality drivel, The Hunt strikes with a killer blow and opens our eyes to the true beauty, marvel and skill involved in the filmmaking. The whole episode is impeccably constructed, paced and drawn out with an absorbing narrative that transports us to the most phenomenal corners of the globe, encapsulating the incredible scenes that happen so regularly on this amazing planet.
It’s a formula that can never fail; combining the narrative skill and craftmanship to simply wondrous natural photography is as intoxicating as it was when the BBC first pushed the boundaries and shattered expectations of technical achievement with Planet Earth back in 2006. Nine years later and it’s still the greatest way to spend an hour in front of the television.