Proof Review: The Proposition (2005)

Release Date
May 15, 2005
Director
John Hillcoat
Screenplay
Nick Cave
Distributed By
First Look Pictures
Budget
$2 million
Crime, Drama, Western
Rated R for strong grisly violence, and for language
104 minutes

The Proposition

As a sucker for serenity, the vastness of the landscapes and the unbelievable sunsets of The Proposition make it a front runner for being one of my favorites in the modern western genre. Headed by John Hillcoat, the director of the more recent post-apocalyptic film The Road, the bar could not be set any higher simply heading into the film.

The film starts with, only naturally, a proposition. There are three brothers, Charlie (Guy Pearce), Mike (Richard Wilson), and Arthur (Danny Huston). A lawman by the name of Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) is set to clean up the West by ridding it of savages. The head savage is the oldest brother, Arthur. Case in point, Stanley will hold onto Mike as collateral while Charlie is sent to kill Arthur. Thus is the proposition and The Proposition.

The story and how it plays out is strikingly simple. You would expect many parties to be involved, for the storyline to take some twists and turns, and for there to be some aspect of clouded judgment when family is involved, but really The Proposition shatters most expectations, leaving absolutely every aspect of the film respectfully transparent. If a character is going to kill someone, they do not sit around and talk about it, they simply act on impulse. Most characters let their emotions speak for themselves. This is the West and it feels authentic.

Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone play off each other rather well. The dynamic of both actors rings true to their character and helps rub off on the rest of the cast. Danny Huston is an odd choice for the older brother, as he comes off too theatrical in most of his roles and continues that stilted delivery in The Proposition. John Hurt is also a odd choice, as a treasure hunter. Though his look fits the film, his character holds little weight in the storyline and could have easily been done without.

Being a video game enthusiast, one can see the resemblance The Proposition (2006) has with the video game Red Dead Redemption (2010). Rockstar Games, the creators of Red Dead Redemption, have been cited as using The Proposition as one of their main influences for the game. The even more entertaining portion of this relationship is that John Hillcoat produced a short film with gameplay from Red Dead Redemption as promotional material before the game was released.

Westerns appear to be simple, but if you have ever viewed a failed Western film, you realize how difficult they actually are. Not only are you in a specific grandioso setting and time period, but directors have to realize there is a specific audience that frequents these films and their expectations are instilled from the days of John Ford, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood. With all the correct pieces set in place, The Proposition carries on the legacy of the genre successfully and breathes life back into the fading Westerns.

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