The Proposition (2005)
By: Devon B. on December 23, 2013 | Comments
First Look Studios | Region Free | 2.35:1, 1080p | English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 | 104 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: John Hillcoat
Starring: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, John Hurt, David Wenham
Screenplay: Nick Cave
Country: Australia/UK
I saw The Proposition in the theatre and thought it was an incredibly well made movie, but it wasn't an easy film to watch so I didn't revisit it for many years. Last year I decided I had to see it again, and within minutes of starting the film realised I had majorly stuffed up because The Proposition is a Xmas movie. I did not necessarily enjoy the film, but I should've been making everyone watch it with me every year because nothing gives me more pleasure than making those around me uncomfortable during the holidays.

The movie opens with Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) and his younger brother Mikey Burns (some other guy) trapped in a shootout. They get apprehended by the police, and Charlie is clearly protective of the much weaker Mikey. Charlie is offered the titular proposition by the police captain, who says Mikey's life will be spared if Charlie brings his older brother Arthur to justice. Moral dilemmas aside, Arthur won't be easy to take down as he's a notorious, psychopathic outlaw. Charlie sets out in the sweltering, bleak, fly infested outback, and Mikey soon finds he's not in for an easy run while in gaol.

This movie is so fucking perfect it's hard to know where to start, so I guess I'll just start with the cast. I'm sure there have been more spectacular casts assembled for a movie before, but I'm hard-pressed to think of an example. Before this I had only ever seen Pearce in a stupid movie about a time machine or something, but he quickly won me over here with his award worthy turn as Charlie. Even more compelling is Ray Winstone as the police captain who wants to "tame this land." Winstone's character is not morally corrupt, but he's a hard man doing a hard job and encountering forces he can't control. Saving the film from becoming too testosterone driven is the always impressive Emily Watson, playing the captain's better half, a woman who wants to do what's right but isn't always able to make an informed decision as to what that is. Those three alone would make for a stellar cast, but The Proposition also features John Hurt; David Gulpalil; David Wenham and Tom E Lewis, and there's not a single member of the cast that gives a dud performance.

The cast do an exemplary job of bringing the story to life, inspired by a script that is nothing short of amazing. The screenplay was written by Nick Cave, an entertainer who I never took to because he seemed like a pompous ass, but he can be as up himself as he wants if he's going to write movies of this calibre. Cave also co-wrote the score, and while I normally struggle with more current sounding music in movies set decades ago Cave's sombre soundtrack encapsulates the film's tone sonically so well it's never distracting and instead augments the movie's impact. Cave teamed with director John Hillcoat, who was instrumental in the formation of the film, and the movie benefits immensely from his steady and assured direction. There are the occasional flashes of hilarity, but mostly the movie is an existentialist nightmare, a haunting portrayal of life in early Australia. The world of The Proposition is filled with cruelty and brutality, made to seem all the harsher when characters try to show compassion but are unable to offer any assistance to those in need. If there is one word to describe The Proposition it would have to be unflinching, as the film does not shy away from violence or its effects, and displays other nastiness like racism in a similarly straightforward manner.

Adam Hills once said there weren't enough things celebrating Australia's unique Xmas season, but The Proposition helps balance the scale a little bit. It singlehandedly proves that Australia is a great place to set a Western, except it's set on the East Coast, so I guess it's an Eastern, which is like a whole new genre. I'll bet there are people that have been working in film for years that were annoyed that Nick Cave decided to dabble in the field and produced an absolute masterpiece, but that's what he fucking well did.
The Disc
The Proposition looks sharp and clear, but I wouldn't say it looks clean because the movie is designed to look dirty. Colours can be a bit strong, but the colour's been graded that way to help capture the feel of the heat, something The Proposition does better than any other movie I've seen. There is some minor crush and a bit of edge enhancement, but otherwise this Blu-ray presents the film just like it looked theatrically. The Blu-ray has 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD High Resolution tracks. The DTS-HD track is at 2.0mbps so it's not quite lossless, but it's still very strong. The bass seemed louder on this track than the others when I sampled it, but it wasn't quite as clear as the TrueHD one so that was the track I watched the movie with. Both tracks have some magnificent sound design, with the sounds of rustling wind, thunderous clouds, thundering horses and countless flies buzzing all very well rendered. There's also a lossy 2.0 mix for those that watch Blu-rays with the sound played through a television…that's the only reason I could think of that someone would choose this track over the other two.

The Blu-ray comes with a commentary; several featurettes; 12 minutes of deleted scenes; a photo gallery; the trailer and trailers for The Contract, King of California, The Amateurs, War, Inc., Meet Bill, Sukyaki Western Django and Blood Brothers. The first featurette is a making of that runs about 30 minutes. This is heavily focused on the cast and their characters and the location for the shooting, which is a remarkable part of the country. The other featurettes are grouped together as Inside The Proposition and run about 70 minutes combined. This covers a lot of the same things as the making of, and footage repeats between the two, but information is covered in more depth in this series of featurettes. It's a fascinating film, so I found the making of equally compelling. None of the featurettes are 16:9 enhanced. The commentary is with Hillcoat and Cave and, like everything else on this disc bar the trailers and the photo gallery, is totally absorbing. The guys divulge things one would expect in a commentary like where and how things were shot, but they also drop knowledge on local history and culture. The special features should help people better appreciate the intricacies of this brilliant film, and assist those not blessed enough to live in The Lucky Country understand the intensity of this land.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I don't have a bad word to say about The Proposition, which is a bit strange because I'm not entirely sure that I actually like it, but then it's not really designed to be a film people like. It's the best non-Clint Eastwood Western ever, and is one of, if not the, best Australian films of all time. And since it's a UK coproduction it also ranks as a top notch UK film, too. Not watching it makes you stupid like me before I realised it was an Xmas movie. It should make a good double bill with White Christmas at the family gatherings.
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