Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Movie Review: The Proposition

The white settlement of Australia was violent, bloody, racist, and ruthless. John Hillcoat's new Australian movie, The Proposition, opens with formal black and white photographs showing settlers in civilised poses with everything calm and peaceful. Suddenly, we are hit in the guts with a searingly violent gunfight between outlaws and police after a family have been slaughtered and raped. Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) and 14-year-old Mikey Burns (Richard Wilson) are arrested and held responsible for the crime. They are both going to hang. But Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) has a proposition for Charlie. If he goes out and kills his older brother, Arthur (Danny Huston), the leader of the gang, then Mikey will be pardoned and rescued from the Christmas Day hanging. It's a risky proposition, but Captain Stanley has a lot to prove to himself, his wife, and the men under his command. Stanley is a conflicted man who hates the violence that seems such a necessary part of his job to civilise this sunburnt country and he tries to protect his wife from unnecessary trauma by restricting her to their house some distance from the town. Set in the outback of the 1880s, the cinematography stunningly represents the harsh, relentless land as Stanley determines to make the country civilised. We follow Charlie as he goes in search of his brother, desperately trying to come to terms with what he has to do. On the way, he runs into a bounty hunter (John Hurt) who is also tracking down Arthur and we witness a powerful scene between the two. Guy Pearce and Danny Huston are brilliant in their roles; the music is haunting and matches the harsh beauty of the land; and the script by Nick Cave is just right. The violence of the film is confronting but we need to be confronted with the reality of this period of Australian history. The film pulls no punches and refuses to descend into political correctness. The characters are neither all good nor all bad -- they are real and we see everyone, white and black, doing what they need to do to survive. It's a powerful film -- but not for the squeamish. This is a savage yet beautiful film. It is one of the best films so far this year with its themes of loyalty, betrayal, redemption, love, and the violence that revenge so often brings. My Rating: **** (out of 5) Other Reviews 'This scintillating Western written by musician Nick Cave is exactly what the local film industry needs: a superbly poetic and original film that ranks as one of the year's best.' - Avril Carruthers/inFilm Australia 'It's a strange, unsettling film, ultimately quite moving, it's impossible not to respond to it strongly.' - Margaret Pomeranz/At the Movies Content Warning High level violence

No comments:

Post a Comment