Proposition (2005) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, John Hurt, David Wenham

Director: John Hillcoat

This gritty, gory western, written by Nick Cave, is set in the Australian outback circa 1880s. It gives a no holds barred depiction of the reality of life in such a remote community when they are subjected to a reign of terror from a ruthless gang headed by three Irish brothers – the Burns.

Director John Hillcoat keeps the movie extremely paced but this suits the foreboding mood from the oppressive heat and harsh climate conditions, beautifully and dramatically exploited by cinematographer Benoit Delhomme, to the unfolding chain of events set in motion by lawman Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone).

When Captain Stanley captures two of the wanted brothers, Charlie (Guy Pearce) and 14 year-old Mikey (Richard Wilson), he makes a proposition to Charlie. If Charlie kills his older, psychotic brother Arthur (Danny Huston) holed up in the mountains with the rest of his gang he and Mickey will be pardoned. Meanwhile the captain returns to town and incarcerates Mikey who will be hanged in 9 days time on Christmas Day if Charlie doesn’t come through.

The stellar cast gives strong performances but what makes the most impression is that the movie is full of extremes and stark contrasts from the barbaric brutality of the brothers’ crimes that are terrorizing the community to the locals backlash on Mikey instigated by wealthy landowner and Stanley’s superior Eden Fletcher (David Wenham) who learns of the proposition from one of Stanley’s own bigoted men. The brutal tit-for-tat relationship the Aborigines have with the white community and the rampant racial hatred between the two. The English rose, Captain Stanley’s wife Martha (Emily Watson), who’s like a fish out of water trying to maintain an unprecedented etiquette that’s totally alien here and seems almost surreal. Her way of life and polite charm could be on another planet for all most of its tough, rugged, uncouth locals care for in this god forsaken land.

In addition to the movie this two-disc edition comes with a second DVD containing exclusive interviews with actors Guy Pearce and Danny Huston. There are further cast and crew interviews with Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, David Wenham, Nick Cave and John Hillcoat, as well as behind the scenes documentary. Phew…

So in this period drama about three brothers – where one must live, one must die and one must decide – THE PROPOSITION is a brutally honest portrayal. Captivating, somehow fascinating yet completely barbaric and almost revolting at times, practically nobody escapes unscathed as the death toll mounts and it draws to a bloody climax.

4 out of 6 stars