The Proposition is a blistering Aussie western set in the Queensland outback in the 1880’s. It is a violent tale of revenge, hatred and honour in an extremely harsh environment. Written by Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat (Ghosts of the Civil Dead), it is an uncompromising and brave piece of cinema which should help put the Australian film industry back on the map.It opens with a gun battle ending with the capture of two of the Burns brothers; Charlie (Guy Pearce) and Mikey (Richard Wilson). The Burns gang is wanted for a hideous crime and Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) puts forth a proposition to Charlie in order to end the gang’s violent ways. He basically gives Charlie’s the choice of two brothers. Either he track down and kill his elder brother, Arthur (Danny Huston), believed to be the perpetrator of a particularly brutal crime or let his seemingly innocent younger brother swing by a noose on Christmas day. If he takes the first choice he is also offered a pardon for any of the crimes committed when he was still a member of the gang. Charlie obviously has stronger feelings for Mikey and he sets off on horseback into the unforgiving outback where Arthur is believed to be bunkered down in a cave.
The Proposition has a brilliant cast with Ray Winstone being the standout and there is an amazing cameo performance from John Hurt who plays a bounty hunter on Arthur’s trail. The cinematography by Frenchman Benoit Delhomme is breathtaking, capturing the harsh beauty and stark contrasts of the Australian outback beautifully. Another plus is the score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (The Dirty Three) which is suitably eerie.
Although it is visually stunning and exceptionally acted, the film suffers due to poor character development and leaving too many questions unanswered. The motivations behind some of the key characters are never fully realised. A better understanding of the Burns brother’s relationships and history would have been a gainful insight and improved the film substantially.Faults aside, there is still plenty to like about The Proposition and it is a worthwhile outing to the cinema. Be warned though, it is not for the faint of heart as it is often very graphic and uncompromising in its portrayal of violence.
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