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Following the rape and murder of a colonial family, outlaw brothers
Charlie and Mikey burns are captured by ruthless local lawman, Captain
Stanley. Rather than imprison both fugitives, Stanley presents Charlie
with a proposition (though it's really a demand) that Charlie kill his
older brother, and gang leader, Arthur or else Mikey will meet his
demise at the end of a hangman's noose. It is a proposition which will
have karmic repercussions for all involved.
Directed by Brisbanite John Hillcoate from a script by Aussie indie
icon Nick Cave, this film has some of the most gorgeous photography of
the Australian outback ever committed to film, showcasing it's unique
desolate beauty in it's dust, flies and exquisite sunsets.
Hillcoate assembles a very fine ensemble cast, most notably Ray
Winstone as Captain Stanley and Guy Pearce as Charlie Burns - two
actors performing at the top of their game. Danny Huston is effective
as Arthur Burns, a man whose serene exterior belies his vicious
temperament. Other performers include Emily Watson and John Hurt, as
well as fine Australian talent David Wenham, Leah Purcell, Tommy Lewis
and quintessential movie aborigine David Gulpilil. All performances are
Despite it's high violence quotient, the film has an admirable lack of
moralistic tone. There are no obvious good guys and bad guys, all the
characters are shades of grey possessing both positive and negative
attributes, although some characters may lean one way or the other. In
particular, Captain Stanley has a good heart though history may judge
his methods of justice with contempt, and Charlie Burns has a fierce
sense of loyalty and honour but his associated family ties have led him
to commit horrific crimes. Even Captain Stanley's wife, Martha, in all
her Victorian innocence and naivety, has a dark side to her soul; an
attribute which will further propel all towards their destinies.
It's strong subtext of white colonialists' condescending treatment of
the aboriginal population puts this film in fine company with other
Australian indigenous-themed films such as Fred Schepisi's The Chant Of
Jimmy Blacksmith, Nicholas Roeg's Walkabout, Rolf de Heer's The Tracker
and Phillip Noyce's Rabbit Proof Fence. The Proposition is the best of
these. This is a big call, I know, but the fact is that none of those
other very fine Australian films possess the tension which so
completely permeates Hillcoates' picture. This film represents a major
achievement for both Hillcoate and Cave and is the best Australian film
to leave these shores since Ray Lawrence's Lantana.
8.5 out of 10.
Tags for The Proposition Full Movie
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