Sunday, March 18, 2007

Movie Review - The Proposition

I bought the movie, The Proposition, a few months ago after hearing several glowing reviews from Ebert and Roeper and others. I hadn't taken the time to watch it until tonight. Now, I wished I had watched it sooner.

It's a western but what makes the movie different is that it is not set in the classic American West. It is set in the outback of Australia, a land that many say was much wilder than it's American counterpart. From IMDb,
Rural Australia in the late nineteenth century: Capt. Stanley and his men capture two of the four Burns brothers, Charlie and Mike. Their gang is held responsible for attacking the Hopkins farm, raping pregnant Mrs. Hopkins and murdering the whole family. Arthur Burns, the eldest brother and the gang's mastermind, remains at large has and has retreated to a mountain hideout. Capt. Stanley's proposition to Charlie is to gain pardon and - more importantly - save his beloved younger brother Mike from the gallows by finding and killing Arthur within nine days.

In at least two regards, it reminded me a lot of Clint Eastwood movies. First of all, in the look of Guy Pearce's character, Charlie Burns, it was very evocative of Clint in Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns.

Secondly, the ambiguity of good and evil reminded me of those very same westerns but also of The Unforgiven. The people that are supposed to be good have bad in them and the people that are supposedly bad have a morality about them that makes it hard to completely hate them.

It is very much of the genre of modern revisionist westerns. Real life is not like the good guy/bad guy simplification of 50's westerns (or some would say, our current government). A scene from The Unforgiven just about sums it up:
... Later, the cocksure Kid breaks down as he fully grasps the enormity of cold-blooded murder. "It's a hell of a thing, killing a man," Munny agrees. "You take away all he's got, and all he's ever going to have." The Kid suggests that the victim had it coming. Munny replies, "We all have it coming, Kid."

The cast is is universally outstanding. It includes the previously mentioned Pearce (also of Memento), Ray Winstone (recently of The Departed), John Hurt (V for Vendetta), the always great Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves), and David Wenham (LOTR). The cinematography takes advantage of the vastness and barrenness of the outback. It has a sepia-toned hue to it to evoke the look of old-timed photographs. An interesting sidenote is that the script was written by singer Nick Cave.

If you are scared away by graphic violence, then you may want to rent City Slickers instead. But if you want a gritty, realistic, and dark western that is beautiful in its own way, check The Proposition out.

I liked this movie a lot and believe it is every bit as good as the other Westerns I mentioned. Grade: A


Sadie Lou said...

Right on! I'm all over it. Thanks for the review.

dbackdad said...

No problem. I just saw Borat, Premonition and 300 in the last week. I'll be putting up reviews of all of them in the next day or so.

Sadie Lou said...

My parents want me to go see 300 and I will most likely rent it. Dan hates those kinds of movies and I find that I am starting to lean more towards his preferences.
I loathed Sin City but my mom said this was different.

Antimatter said...

Absolutely loved Unforgiven... Probably Eastwood's finest directorial effort (beats the stuff he's doing these days!).