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The Proposition (2005) R 104min

October 6th, 2007 by Maxim · No Comments · 4,793 Views

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This Western set and made in Australia won multiple international rewards.

The plot: following rape and murder of a colonial family, the lawman, Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone), has apprehended two brothers, Charlie and Mike Burns (Guy Pearce and Richard Wilson) after a bloody shootout. Captain Stanley made a deal with Charlie Burns – he must kill his older brother, Arthur (Danny Huston), who’s still in hiding, or his younger brother Mike will be executed.

The plot doesn’t get simpler then that – a typical Western. What makes this movie special is the historical backdrop and apocalyptic feeling to the story. This movie shows how life in Australia was in 18th century when the country was “civilized”. Like in “Rabbit Proof Fence”, there’s a lot of “by the way” condescending (or worse) treatment of aborigenes by dominant white population.

Tom E. Lewis , Tom Budge and Danny Huston in First Look's The PropositionNot a perfect, but definitely memorable film. Photography of Australian outback with it’s desolate beauty and gorgeous sunsets was superb. I could almost feel blood and dust in my mouth. I wish I’d seen it on the big screen. Great cast. Pretty violent at times, getting over the top sadistic toward the end. The actors in supporting roles were more dominiant and in other ways better the the focus of this film, Guy Pierce, who should’ve been in a supporting role where he’s best. With exception of Momento, he doesn’t seem to be able to carry the weight in other movies. The film was also slow at times. It doesn’t explain why any of the characters are the way they are or how they’d become that way.

Danny Huston in First Look's The PropositionAll characters are shady: everyone seems to hide skeletons in their closets, but everyone has their good moments too. The apocalyptic setting in this film is achieved by several ways: the crying voice singing meditating songs during sunset shots with the silhouettes of men exposed over the disk of Sun, and the presence of flies everywhere. In the scene where Mike is whipped there are flies everywhere: they are like angels from hell waiting for another soul to be delivered. They also do the work of collecting the dead bodies. I thought it was a very nice metaphor and very powerful tool in the hands of director John Hillcoat. The location is a real hell hole, and the lifestyle of Captain Stenley and his wife with their big house, English tea, rose garden, and Christmas tree are a stark contract against the dust of the desert with swarming flies and rotting bodies scattered around the “proper” and “civilized” town.

The other part of the story is Charlie having to kill his “bad” brother Arthur to save his youngest brother Mike, but also to put an end to Arthur’s madness, who seems to hate the entire world, and kill and destroy and get gratification from that: he is like Col. Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now”.

Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone), is a “sheriff” character of classical Westerns, but he is not exactly a lawman because we are witnessing the birth of Australia as a nation, where law doesn’t exactly exist. There’s merely an attempt by the corrupt mayor to create perception of law, while natives are being enslaved or slaughtered daily.

Spoiler. Don’t read if you don’t want to. There is a great scene toward the end when Captain Stanley releases his native servant named Two Bob, who, as he steps outside the gate, takes his shoes off: a statement that Captain’s mission to “civilize this country” has utterly failed because it was absurd in the first place. The servant was becoming a free man once again, and as the free man he doesn’t need to be dressed like a clown in European clothes. His shoes remain in the rose garden.

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Tags: Australia · Drama · Foreign · Movies · Westerns

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