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May 8, 2011Beautifully shot, impeccably acted out, cohesively written and a cast worthy of box office stardom but it's modesty is almost immaculate. The film's subtle underlying message is clear and is conveyed without adrenaline-inducing violence but in an odd sense, poetic, almost symbolic, violence. However, though a thorough story and excellently executed, it's lack of action, for a western, leaves a minor gap in the movie. Not to say that's a bad thing...… Collapse
Aug 5, 2012Directed by John Hilcoat and written by iconic Australian musician and novelist Nick Cave (the two have previously collaborated, on 1988's "Ghosts... Of The Civil Dead"), The Proposition is a gritty and unflinching modern western set in rural Queensland in the 1880's. The film opens with a furiously chaotic shootout, bullets ripping through the tin shack where bushranger brothers Charlie and Mikey Burns are holed up following the rape and murder of a local family. The brothers are swiftly overwhelmed and captured by British expatriate Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone). Stanley is not satisfied with his victory, however, because the real villain remains at large - Athur, the eldest and most dangerous Burns brother is hiding in the ranges with the remainder of his posse. Rather than simply imprison them both, the captain presents Charlie with an ultimatum - track down and slay Arthur within nine days, or Mikey will hang from the gallows on Christmas day. It's a swift and effective introduction, giving us a telling taste of the violence and desperation that fill the rest of the film. Charlie locates his brother with ease, but gathering the courage and willpower to murder family is another matter. Arthur (Danny Huston) is an intellectual psychopath, quoting poetry and philosophising on life while carrying out brutal and heinous crimes. His eccentric personality and unflinching taste for extreme violence have developed for him a near-mythical legend status, and neither the local police nor the aboriginal tribesman are willing to hunt him down. Huston's brilliant performance is as charasmatic as it is unnerving, and is one of the highlights of the film. The bond between Arthur and the other posse members is unbreakable - the very definition of "mateship". As a result, he is fiercely determined to free Mikey and seek revenge on Stanley, and in no way suspects the impending betrayal from his brother.
Back in town, Captain Stanley faces his own dillemna - businessman Eden Fletcher, who all but owns the local law enforcement, has demand that Mikey receive one hundred lashes a preemptive punishment for his crimes. Stanley knows that the ordeal would surely kill the boy, and in doing so nullify his agreement with Charlie and bring down the wrath of the remaining gang members. It's a harsh and uncomprimising narrative - can Stanley resist the bloodlust of the townsfolk and stay true to his moral code while still managing to bring about justice?
The performances are exemplary, the entire cast potraying their characters with comfortable ease. The Proposition is filled with a vast array of minor characters, mostly crude and cruel men who are as much a product of the harsh country as they are of their convict backgrounds.
Cave's script is tight and focused, the dialogue spot-on. The score, also written and performed by Cave with the assistance of violinist Warren Ellis, is unusual but highly effective, filled with murmering whispers and bleak soundscapes. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, perfectly capturing the achingly beautiful landscape with wide, open shots. These elements come together to create a realistic insight into colonial Australia, perhaps the most accurate recreation to date.
The Proposition has been praised for its cynical but accurate potrayal of white/aboriginal relations in colonial Autralia; the white townsfolk treat the aboriginals in an extremely patronizing and condenscending manner. The racial juxtaposition is perhaps best exemplified by Captain Stanley's property - a fenced-off recreation of traditional (and relatively luxurious) English housing that greatly contrasts with the sorrounding countryside. The colonists are stubborn intruders, attempting to bring "civilization" to the vast land and in doing so destroying a rich and unique culture formed over thousands of years. A refreshing take on the dying western genre, The Proposition is so vigorously paced, so shocking in its violence and so beautifully shot that it demands the viewer's full attention. I can't recommend this one enough.… Expand
Mar 11, 2013A well-paced, violent and hard-edged western; it has the classic vengeance storyline, but it´s completely different from the other westerns out there. Very gritty script, brilliant performances, flawless cinematography. Coupled with a heart-rending score, this movie comes as close as they do to perfection.