Proposition, The (Australia/UK; 104 min.)


directed by:John Hillcoat
cast: Guy Pearce; Emily Watson; Ray Winstone; Tom Budge
The Proposition
 

Chris says: "This Aussie western sports the first screenplay to be written by goth rock legend Nick Cave. Like a good number of the man's songs, it's darkly poetic, somewhat macabre, heavily death-obsessed, more than a little bloody and ponderously slow. Set in the late 19th century, the story hinges on a deal small town sheriff Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) makes with criminal Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce): amnesty for bringing back and killing his fugitive brother Arthur (Danny Huston). Along with detained younger brother Mike (Richard Wilson), the Burns are accused of raping and murdering a family. Stanley's wife Martha (Emily Watson) also figures in; through her, we get a sense of political/economical divide in this frontier town and how loyalty comes at odds with morality and guilt.

"As noted in the discussion following the screening I attended, the whole thing plays like an amalgamation of past Westerns, combining the blood soaked style of Sergio Leone with the expansive travelogue of THE SEARCHERS, for starters. The cinematography superbly captures the Australian outback like nothing since WALKABOUT, painting a striking tableaux of sunsets, twilight and silhouettes. Tonally, the film is all over the place, even making room for a funny, jarring, manic cameo from John Hurt. Although ambitious and full of great ideas, it's often as remote as how Pearce comes across; only Winstone and Watson (both wonderful)
really resonate as they're the sole characters meant to be more than symbols. Recommended if you love Westerns, but I found THE PROPOSITION far easier to admire than love. 3 cats"

 
Beth says: "THE PROPOSITION is Western storytelling done Australia-style, and done very well. It’s an Old Testament kind of story, of a man forced to pick the lesser of two difficult choices, compelled to decide which of his brothers most deserves to live, against a pitiless and unyielding backdrop of the deep outback of 1800’s Australia. Guy Pearce is Charlie Burns, presented with this proposition by Ray Winstone’s Captain Stanley after he and his younger brother are caught by Stanley’s police. Both actors give stand-out performances of men who struggle to find their way, a middle way to live in a bleak, black and white world. Pearce’s performance is intensely physical, even as the character spends much of the film laid up from injury - Pearce works at a level that I think only Christian Bale can match among actors of his generation, in that respect.

"Director John Hillcoat brings to vivid life the beauty and the cruelty of the natural world these men inhabit and struggle to come to terms with, the heat, the flies, the vast unending horizon. It’s in the remotest part of this world that Charlie at last finds his older brother, Arthur, who has succumbed to? triumphed over the pull of this new strange land so faraway from the world known before. Danny Huston embodies this larger than life feral killer poet of a character; it’s a career-changing performance, and how fitting that the son comes into his own in a film genre well-trodden by the father (John Huston)?

"While the screenplay, by Nick Cave, at times is somewhat epigrammatic, the actors by and large pull them off, plus Cave has an ace in his sleeve that he uses with great effect to augment if not fill in those occasional gaps - the score. The film’s soundscape is a thing of wonder, evocative and compelling. I think it’s the first film I’ve seen where the same hand wrote the words and music, and it’s a brilliant combination. As is the combo of Hillcoat and Cave - they have collaborated before, and I hope that they continue to do so. 4 cats."

 
Hilary says: "Brutal, visually arresting, sprawling Western-epic set in Colonial Australia, written by Goth crooner Nick Cave. The cast, led by Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone, works as one; not a weak link among them. Pearce plays Charlie Burns, member of an Irish gang that police chief Captain Stanley (Winstone), is determined to arrest and punish in the most extreme manner.

'Other notable perfs include Danny Huston as Charlie's brother and leader of the Burns Gang, Arthur; Emily Watson as Stanley's wife, Martha, the quintessential English rose attempting to eke out a life far from home in a barren land; and John Hurt as a crazed, drunken bounty hunter.

'This is not an easy film to watch, it's violent and bleak, and most of the characters debased to their most visceral, animal instincts for survival. The contrasts in this film show how well-crafted it is: the harsh landscape of the outback against beautiful sunsets that seem to go on forever; the supposed civilizing influence of the British versus the native peoples; Martha's garden plot flourishing in the dry and dusty soil; and, perhaps most notably, the authentically dirty, sweaty, sunburned appearance of almost all the characters except for Martha, pale and perfect in a formal wardrobe much better suited for England.

'My favorite quote:

'Is that what we are, misanthropes?'

'Good lord, no; we're a family!'

'4 cats, leaning towards 4 1/2'