Unmistakeably written by Nick Cave, The Proposition is set in the late 1800s in the Australian outback. Unbearable heat, violence and poverty made up the lives of the early migrants that travelled to the relatively unknown country. For the indigenous inhabitants of Australia, it was also a bloody and brutal time.
Cave’s script is poetic and honest, working perfectly under John Hillcoat’s direction. The film centres around Captain Stanley, played to perfection by Ray Winstone. Stanley is the captain of a small group of police officers located in an outback town, terrified by the violent acts of the Burns gang. When the two younger brothers of the gang are caught, Stanley is far more interested in capturing their older brother Arthur, a rapist and murderer. This is where ‘the proposition’ arises, with Stanley offering Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) the chance to kill his older brother in order to save his younger one.
Pearce is understated and mesmirising as Charlie Burns, and a fantastic performance also comes thanks to Emily Watson who plays Captain Stanley’s upper-class and very understanding wife, Martha. There’s also John Hurt, who puts in the usual brilliant performance.
With not only the perfect script but also a fantastic soundtrack, Cave sums up the brutal and incredibly tough social and physical landscape of the late 1800s in Australia brilliantly.