2005Director: John Hillcoat
Cast: Ray Winstone, Guy Pierce, Emily Watson
n the early settlement of Australia’s remote rural outback of the 1880s, the anemic, sun-scorched landscape cries out for relief, whilst its human inhabitants brutally lash out against one another, fixed interminably on their own desperate struggles. In this world, survival is foremost and morality is a luxury quickly pushed aside. But The Proposition is no testosterone-fix of the action blockbuster persuasion. Rather, it is gauged toward exploring the drives and vulnerabilities of characters in desperate environs, interweaving themes of love, protection, and tenderness amongst violence, moral conflict, and redemption.
The story revolves around policeman Captain Stanley’s (Ray Winstone) unusual attempt to bring a band of outlaw brothers to justice. Captured outlaw Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is released to hunt down his murderous older brother (Danny Huston) in order to save his younger brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) from the noose. Starting with this conventional premise, screenwriter Nick Cave has fashioned an original story that has instinctively taken western themes—outlaws, isolation, taming the landscape—and transposed them into a thoroughly researched, unique Australian vision.
Director John Hillcoat has created a cogent visual experience, drawing us right into the sweaty, dusty, fly-plagued outback plains. Benoit Delhomme’s cinematography, as with previous films Irreversible and The Ordeal, brings a striking intimacy to the violence within the film. He manages well to create the sense of being desperately lost in this vast, unforgiving wilderness, whilst maintaining a vivid, face-to-face urgency amongst the cast. Performances throughout are outstanding. Of particular note are John Hurt playing a weathered bounty hunter, Danny Huston as the literate, psychopathic Arthur Burns, and Emily Watson as Captain Stanley’s loving wife.
It is refreshing to watch a historical piece that seems more concerned with historical accuracy than pandering to contemporary individualist political correctness. From an Australian perspective, I got the impression whilst watching The Proposition that the purpose here was not so much to entertain as to rudely awaken our country to its sordid roots, to the extreme lengths our colonial forefathers went to institute their particular version of order to the chaos. And the portrayal of aborigines must lead one to lament the destructive effect colonialism had on our indigenous population. The film is a startling and sometimes shocking narrative of Australia’s colonial adolescence, largely concerned with humanity’s inability to maintain a basis of morals in desperate times. Enjoy!
By: Matt Jones & Kris Allison
Published on: 2005-12-02