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The Proposition

  • Film

Time Out says

A beautifully shot tracker’s western that brings the Fordian poles of garden and desert to bear on the bushrangers’ Outback, this is also a revenge drama of substantial horror – little surprise given that its writer is Nick Cave. Following his capture in a bravura opening shoot-out, outlaw Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) accepts Captain Stanley’s (Ray Winstone) proposition to hunt down his psychopathic elder brother Arthur (Danny Huston) in exchange for their runtish younger brother’s life. Setting out on this mission of treason and love, he finds a landscape of fierce beauty and lyrical bloodletting, including a grizzled bounty hunter (John Hurt) who fits right in with the rock; back at the settlement, Stanley wrestles with the imposition of civilisation on the region.

If Cave’s words don’t always sit as easily in the mouth of, say, Winstone – here in subdued ‘Sexy Beast’ mode – as in his own, the songwriter’s familiar marriage of Old Testament retribution narrative and Romantic engagement with nature and the self is well-served by Benoît Delhomme’s infernal red-yellow photography, and well-suited to the western form. This is more Peckinpah than Ford, but not just because of the extreme, visceral violence: with a grim trail that can only end in tears and an intimate, plaintive soundtrack, it’s less ‘Wild Bunch’ than ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid’. The obscene absurdity of the settler project – whose symptoms range from the rose garden tended by Stanley’s delicate flower of a wife (Emily Watson) to the tactical sadism of his moustache-twirling superior – is enough in itself to prompt sympathy for its outlaws, with Pearce’s expressive face bearing largely mute, bewildered witness to the horrors it sparks.
Written by Ben Walters

Release Details

  • Rated:18
  • Release date:Friday 10 March 2006
  • Duration:104 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:John Hillcoat
  • Screenwriter:Nick Cave
  • Cast:
    • John Hurt
    • Emily Watson
    • David Wenham
    • Guy Pearce
    • Danny Huston
    • Ray Winstone
    • Tom Budge
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