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Set against the harsh and unforgiving landscape of the 1880s Australian outback, The Proposition is a visually stunning tale of loyalty, revenge and the quest for justice in a lawless land. Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is a renegade. Along with his two brothers, Arthur (Danny Huston) and Mikey (Richard Wilson), he is wanted for murder. When Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) captures Charlie and Mikey, he offers Charlie a proposition in an attempt to end the brutality that surrounds them -- the only way to save Mikey from the noose is for Charlie to track down and kill Arthur, his psychotic older brother. An impossible moral dilemma leads to a murderous climax.
A savage Western set in Australia's Outback, The Proposition is relentless in its intensity and bloody imagery. Set in the late 19th century, the film tells the brutal story of a gang of brothers that kills not out of desperation, but because they can. Arthur Burns (Danny Huston) is the mastermind who shares little in common (other than total disregard for human life) with his younger brother Charlie (Guy Pearce, L.A. Confidential, Memento). When Charlie and their baby brother Mike (Richard Wilson) are captured, Charlie is offered a proposition to save their necks from the gallows. "Suppose, Mr. Burns, I was to give both you and your young brother Mikey, here, a pardon," offers Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone). "Suppose I said that I could give you the chance to expunge the guilt beneath which you so clearly labor.... Now, suppose you tell me what it is I want from you." Without blinking, Charlie says, "You want me to kill my brother." For most people, this would be an unthinkable proposition. For Charlie, the answer's obvious. He'll do whatever he has to spare his own life, even if that means trading his for Arthur's. The Proposition at times is a difficult film to watch. But thanks to a compelling story by rocker Nick Cave and a supporting cast (including Emily Watson as the Captain's gentle wife), the film is a classic in the making. --Jae-Ha Kim
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It sounds great on paper and it's not a bad film, but it isn't great. My main complaint: it tries way too hard to impress itself by flexing its artistic chops, and it's somewhat past the point that it cares if the viewer is impressed or entertained. In so doing, it crosses the line into pretentiousness. A story that could easily have been told in an hour is saturated with montages of vistas, long shots, close up shots, shots showing the sweat dripping off a cowboy's chin, the wheat blowing in the wind, you get the idea. Dialog is always delivered in a deliberate fashion with odd pauses and punctuated by subtlety-shifting facial expressions, which also seem to be rationed out in the same painstakingly deliberate way. It's as if to say, "Yeah, take that all in. It's really, really deep." And, "Did you catch that subtle drop of the eyes? That means he feels morally torn."
There's only so much I could take before I really wanted the pace of the story to kick it up a few gears. It never quite gets there, and of course, to serve the allegory, the ending doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I can't say more without spoilers.
I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. If you really enjoyed DRIVE or SPRING BREAKERS, particularly the dreamlike mode of storytelling, you may really enjoy it.
(spoiler) At one point they literally show a head exploding.
I like these actors, but maybe you have to e Australian to know this story. I did not, and it was just a mess of a movie, with not even one character to root for. Quigley Down Under, it is not.
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Brutal, blistering and unflinching, this is no holds barred filmmaking, which grabs the viewer by the throat, heart and soul. Nick Cave, Warren Ellis and John Hillcoat all work in harmonious tandem to deliver a blood-stained, drought-stricken tale of depravity, hate and literature seton the Western outbacks of Australia. With Guy Pearce, Danny Huston, Ray Winstone, John Hurt and Emily Watson taking centre-stage, watch and behold as they walk unknowingly into a dangerous conflict where a positive outcome is far outreaching.
The cinematography tracks Charlie Burns as he traverses the Western plains, gun in hand. Mikey brutally punished and beaten for all the crowd to see. A flicker, just for a moment, of Arthur Burns' haunting, dogman face as he stares intensely out at the blue dusk. Martha, back turned, reflects on her maternal moment of newborn revelry in the bath tub to Captain Stanley, who tears at the mere thought of a pregnant women being raped and burned alive. It's gorgeous in its presentation and poetic in it's delivery, bolstered by the iron-strong screenplay written by also-composer Nick Cave. These men breathe an air that's as suffocating and sickening as the violence they plunge themselves in. Happiness and mercy are the words of the heathens. You'll never hear 'O Peggy Gordon' the same again.
"When," said the moon to the stars in the sky,
"Soon," said the wind that followed the moon,
"Who," said the cloud that started to cry,
"Me," said the rider, dry as a bone...