The Proposition

John Hillcoat's Australian Western The Proposition is an extraordinary mood-piece in an extraordinary setting that tells the tale of an extraordinary time. At the heart of it is a classic moral dilemma: will you kill one of your siblings to save another? Hillcoat takes this idea to a brilliantly artistic level by recreating a time and a place that we've all but forgotten. Not because it has been so long but because of Hollywood and it's fairy tale westerns where everything seems to happen for the best and the moral divide is gaping wide. The Proposition is not your father's Western. It is not even yours but it is probably your childrens'.

The frontier is a wild place and wild not as in fantastic but wild as in brutal and unforgiving.  The Britishers who've come to settle aren't afraid only of the aborigines but more so of their own kind that have not taken kindly to this raw land. Ray Winstone is Captain Stanley trying to keep peace from a monster Arthur Burns played with an uncanny brilliance by Dany Huston. When Stanley catches hold of Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) and his kid brother Mike he thinks he has a way to bring Dany down via Charlie.

The moral dilemma presented to Charlie, played by Guy Pearce in certainly his best role since Memento, is to save Mike if he can get Stanley Dany's head. But nothing happens quite as you imagine as Charlie makes up his mind.

And then there is Emily Watson as a frontier wife to the captain who isn't quite sure how to deal with the colonial adventure that she finds herself in. There is beauty and peace but it is so ephemeral. She may represent the inner moral confusion of the colonizers against the overt dilemma of Charlie's choice.

Amazing landscapes littered with amazing characters make this film and amazing proposition.