The Proposition is an Australian film which released in 2005, starring Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, and Danny Huston amongst others. The rest of the cast may not be very well known to people who do not follow Australian or British cinema, but judging from their performances they must be top notch in their industry. Guy Pearce is of course well known on the Hollywood circuit and I have seen Ray Winstone give a great performance in the British film ‘Sexy Beast’. The Proposition is set around 1880 in Australia which at the time resembled the American Wild West, so you could say this film falls in the Western genre. Winstone’s character Captain Stanley is a law man from England who is determined to ‘civilize this land’. Off the bat he and his squad corner then capture Charlie Burns (Pearce) and his younger brother Mike who have been accused of perpetrating a horrendous crime against a colonist family. Stanley however believes that the mind behind the madness is actually their elusive older brother Arthur who Charlie and Mike have walked away from. Holding the young and simple boy Mike as collateral, Stanley gives Charlie 9 days to kill his older brother in exchange for the release and pardon of him and his younger brother. And so the stage is set.
This beginning of the film was reminiscent of Apocalypse now, where Captain Benjamin sets out in search of the renegade Kurtz. And the character of Arthur Burns is equally intriguing, in a Charles Manson sort of way. Without giving the plot away I can say that this film is very serious in its nature, the character development is strong and they each add depth and alternative perspectives to the storyline. The imagery is at times beautiful and also disturbing. On one level the writer Nick Cave has delivered a piece that could open the doors to discussions regarding the role of the British in post colonial Australia, the treatment of Aborigines by the colonists, or even the nature of capital punishment and the human lust for revenge. On another level he has delivered one hell of a Western film with classic shots, unforgettable characters, and a story that will kick you in the teeth. It is so hard to draw lines in this movie as to who and what is wrong or right. And in my opinion that is what sets great films apart from the regular shit. As viewers we are forced to think and decide for ourselves because the writer and director do not attempt to present any conclusion to us.