In preparation for the upcoming masterpiece (is it too early to call it that?) of cinema, The Road, I chose to watch 2005′s The Proposition since director John Hillcoat directed them both. I’m not one for westerns, even if they take place in Australia (as The Proposition does), but this film is beautiful.
Nick Cave wrote this script in under three weeks. He also wrote the original score that accompanies the film (don’t worry, it’s not the hokey music heard on the trailer). The score, like the script, is haunting, and provocative. Hillcoat is unflinching, and solid in his direction. The material he broaches in Proposition is dark, and savage, and he’s not afraid of those things.
‘Australia…what fresh hell is this?’
The story follows Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce), an Australian ‘bushranger’ (outlaw) as he’s confronted with a horrible ultimatum: kill his older brother to save his younger. All three Burns boys are outlaws, varying in degrees of inhumanity. The man that put him up to this proposition is Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone). Stanley is charged by his superiors to civilize this 19th century Australia, full of outlaws, murderers and rapists. He takes the law into his own hands, giving Charlie nine days to hunt down and kill Arthur (Danny Huston), the worst of the bunch, or Mikey, the youngest will be sent to the gallows on Christmas day. While Stanley intends to keep his word on releasing Mikey if Charlie does the deed, matters become complicated when Stanley’s wife (Emma Watson) finds out the Burns brothers are responsible for the rape and murder of one of her good friends who was pregnant at the time. She, and the public, cry out for justice, tearing Stanley between his loyalties.
The cinematography is stunning. Hillcoat has a knack of showing the severity of mother nature, and showing mankind’s struggle within her midst. I’ve never seen the Austalian landscape look more bleak. The film is fraught with brutality and violence. All the while, Hillcoat is unapologetic for his matter-of-fact portrayal of the wild west-ish world (the final climax is one of the most provocative scenes in my recent memory). The narrative is strong, the acting is stronger, and as long as you don’t expect anything sugarcoated, you will thoroughly enjoy this. It seems Hillcoat was the perfect choice to direct the upcoming film The Road.
Rated R for strong grisly violence, and for language.