Proposition, the - Outback Tragedy
| The Proposition, an Australian western tale of redemption and desperation, has a great set up. Charlie Burns, along with his dimwitted younger brother, is caught by the local lawman who makes him an offer. Heís going to hang the kid unless Charlie hunts down and kills his psychotic older brother. This plot has gritty western written all over it, but itís the delivery that makes The Proposition such a powerfully satisfying film.
Director John Hillcoat (The Road) crafts a visceral ride through living history. This isnít a tale to glamorise the western ideals, more of a can-you-believe-we-survived-this-frakin-mess? kind of history. He makes you feel the stinging heat of the Aussie Outback. He makes you thirst at the dust rubbing at your skin. There must have been a very active fly-wrangler employed on this set as everything and everyone is covered and swarming.
I caught myself flinching at the pain inflicted by the characters against each other. Occasionally I felt the blows they were receiving. This is a gut pounding film that takes no prisoners and is not for the weak at heart.
Guy Pierce is Charlie and his silent struggle with his dilemma isnít over played or clichťd. He holds his performance close to his vest and never plays his plight as tragedy. Like his character, he (not-so) simply deals with what heís given. The film doesnít spend a great deal of time focusing on his emotions. Instead they simmer beneath the surface just unreachable but just as powerful.
The other story is that of Captain Stanley, portrayed by the venerable Ray Winstone, in one of his best performances yet. Heís trying to bring civilization to this Godforsaken corner of the world and runs into opposition from the townís people, the riffraff, the local money and the aborigines who are all too busy with their own interests and desperation to understand what heís trying to do.
Heís brought his frail wife with him, played by the always-ready-to-be-victimized Emily Watson and he tries desperately to protect her from the insanity everywhere around him. You know itís all going to end badly. The question for these doomed souls is, how badly?
Hillcoat immerses us in this world heís created and it hits us that much harder because of it. The score by rocker and screenwriter Nick Cave is note perfect. The Proposition is such a well crafted film on top of having such an engaging and heart ripping story.
The western genre is often written off in our post-modern world. So often used as a taming force (western civilization overcoming "savagery") to reinforce our modern ideals,the western has fallen out of favor. But it offers more than that and modern westerns like this are breaking out the American hegemony that stifled them for so long. The futility of law and order is most delicately and gorgeously examined here. Certainly this film isn't for the faint of heart but for those with the stomach for it, The Proposition is well worth taking a chance on.
Westerns donít seem to be a genre that are able to catch on in any significant way with the general masses but as long as powerful gems like this keep emerging, itís a genre I will continue to be interested in. If you havenít seen one in a spell, do yourself a favour and take up The Proposition.