The Proposition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (25th August 2021).
The Film

"The Proposition" (2005)

After a brutal shootout between the police, outlaws and brothers Charlie Burns (played by Guy Pearce) and Mikey Burns (played by Richard Wilson) are the lone survivors, apprehended by Captain Stanley (played by Ray Winstone). They are accused of the brutal murders of the Hopkins family, though their older brother Arthur (played by Danny Huston) is still on the run. The Captain will do anything to capture the older brother and gives middle brother Charlie an interesting proposition: That he would be set free, but must find and kill his older brother by Christmas. If he doesn't, the youngest brother Charlie would be hanged that day. Without a choice, Charlie sets out on a quest into the far deserted lands of the outback to save one brother and to sacrifice the other.

When looking at the western genre, almost all of them are centered around the American west in the late 1880s where the cowboys, outlaws, sheriffs, and native Indians have collided in many different ways. But at the same time period on the other side of the hemisphere, Australia was seeing their own parallels in history. With the expansion of white English rule on the continent, there are countless stories of bushrangers, the law, and the Aboriginals during the years of clashes. "The Proposition" is a purely fictional tale yet it takes many cues from a historical time period that is not as frequently seen on screens in comparison to the American counterparts.

Filmmaker John Hillcoat, best known for his long list of music videos approached singer Nick Cave about writing music for a film someday. Years later the idea became not only the music, but a screenplay of an original story as well. Hillcoat was a massive fan of Cave's lyrics, which were filled with interesting characters, situations, and dark themes, as well as with his first novel from 1989, "And the Ass Saw the Angel". The main theme of "The Proposition" is family and what that means to each individual, but there are many more complex themes layered in as well. The encroaching English against the Aboriginal lands is also a major theme that runs throughout. In addition the contrast between the law and the lawless is explored as well.

The Burns brothers are of Irish descent and are slightly differing in personalities. Mikey is the frail youngest brother who is still on a learning curve of the wrong side of the law. Arthur is the animal, the one who sees killing and ruin as a way of life as he hides in the hillside with his gang members. Charlie is literally in the middle. He sees what harm the life of an outlaw is doing to his younger brother and he sees the evil within his older brother's heart as well. Obviously Charlie is the one to have his moral conscience awakened with the proposition he is given, as it is a chance to have his younger brother freed from the life of a criminal, but in order to do that, blood from his own must be shed and he is not completely ready to do so. The journey that Charlie takes does have some similarities to "Hearts of Darkness" or "Apocalypse Now" for the cinematic equivalent, as the deeper he goes into the wilderness, the closer he gets to confronting his own worst nightmare. But a clever concept in this film is the focus given to Captain Stanley's story as well.

An English officer living with his wife Martha (played by Emily Watson), his work and his private life collide when she finds out that he let one of the Burns brothers go. As she was friends with the Hopkins family, she is completely distraught knowing that one of the men responsible for their murders was set free, which leads to some uncomfortable arguments between her and her husband. Not only just the household, but this causes concern with Eden Fletcher (played by David Wenham), the councilman who hired Stanley to clean up the town. Everyone in town is against what Stanley did, and would like to see the captured Burns brother to pay the price for being one of the men responsible for the murders, leading to distrust between the law, and the brutal force of vengeance that people would like to have instead,

Also as stated, the film does not deal only with the whites in the area, but also the blacks. David Gulpilil plays Jacko, an Aboriginal that helps with the law enforcement as a tracker and a translator. In contrast, Two-Bob (played by Tommy Lewis) is on the other side, as an Aboriginal that helps outlaw Arthur as part of his small gang. There are depictions of blacks helping the white man as a bridge between cultures in opposing ways, as well as seeing examples of Aboriginals being arrested and being treated as less than human, and examples of the consequences of what happens to white men that encroach upon their territory.

"The Proposition" is one brutally tough western with some incredibly violent scenes of bloodshed and torture. The whipping scene is quite a difficult watch, even to the point that the characters become disgusted by the happenings. The spearing of Charlie (who somehow survived and returned to fair health quite quickly), the knifings, and headshots are quite graphic, without shying away from the violence at all. While some of the violence may be too much to be called realistic, the costume, makeup, set designs are all incredibly authentic. Rather than the shiny shoes and perfectly tailored hats found in old fashioned Western films, this is gritty, grimy, and dirty all the way through. The outlaws have yellow teeth and greasy hair with overcoats that look dusty. The police officers have uniforms with sweat and stains. Everything looks used and lived in, rather than pulled off the shelf for the production, making things look as authentic as can be with a great amount of research applied. Cinematographer Benoît Delhomme captures the blazing hot outback desert with a golden hue that looks and feels tough yet warm in the various locations. And one cannot forget the amazingly great score by Nick Cave with Bad Seeds member Warren Ellis, as the two create a haunting minimal score.

The performances also should be commended, with Pearce being a great lead as the conflicted Charlie, as well as Winstone being trapped between his morals and his job. One memorable yet slightly wasted role is that of John Hurt as bounty hunter Jellon Lamb, who does have a presence, but his character doesn't quite feel necessary to the main plot. With a great supporting cast as well, the performances are great with all the major parts. With an excellent script, beautiful visuals and soundtrack with layered themes that run deep, "The Proposition" is really a genre-defying western and a career highpoint of all involved. The film first screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12th, 2005, followed by a general release in Australia later in the month. The film received high accolades worldwide, with Cave receiving a screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival, winning four out of its eight nominations at the IF Awards including Best Picture, and winning four out of twelve awards at the AFI Awards.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The film looked very good when it was released on DVD fifteen years ago, and the Blu-ray looks excellent. The golden hues of the desert heat is well represented, the blue skies and brown dirt of the outback, the dusty clothes and skin of the characters are also well presented. Detail is very strong, there are no particular instances of damage to be found, leaving a very clean and very strong transfer.

The film's runtime is 104:00.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
The original English audio track is presented in lossless 5.1. The film has always had an enveloping track with the opening shootout having bullets criss-crossing between the speakers, the sounds of the desert winds, and other effects come in loud and clear. Dialogue is always centered, and well balanced with the effects and the music score, always sounding crisp and clear. Absolutely nothing to fault with this soundtrack.

There are no subtitles for the main feature.

Extras

"Making Of" featurette (27:18)
In this vintage featurette, the cast and crew discuss about the historical time period, the music, the writing, the family dynamic, the individial characters, the on set challenges, and more. Most of the interviews are conducted on set while Hillcoat and Cave are interviewed in London much later, and includes a lot of behind the scenes footage. A fairly well rounded EPK featurette.
in 480i MPEG-2, in windowboxed 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles


"Inside The Proposition" featurettes (with Play All) (68:16)
– Intro & Script (9:12)
– Characters (8:23)
– Research & History (17:26)
– Themes (8:35)
– Heat & Conditions (6:26)
– On John Hillcoat (4:10)
– On Working Together (6:21)
– On Winlon, the Local Town (5:01)
– On Shooting on Sacred Land (2:39)

These featurettes include footage from the above "Making Of" so some information is repeated, but given their own divided featurettes by theme. The titles are self explanatory, with extended interviews from the cast and crew as they discuss various topics about the film. As for on-set interviews, yes there are many flies that constantly try to fly in the faces of the actors as they try to swat they away.
in 480i MPEG-2, in windowboxed 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Deleted Scenes (27:26)
A series of deleted scenes, presented with time codes. Shown are an extended post-arrest scene, extra dialogue with Captain Stanley and Patrick Hopkins, a few scenes of Stanley at home with Martha, Martha offering to help Patrick, more reactions from whipping scene, an extended interrogation scene with the Aboriginals, and an extended version of Charlie meeting Lamb.
in 480i MPEG-2, in windowboxed 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Stills Gallery (4:31)
An automated slideshow of excellent quality behind the scenes stills with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ haunting song “Gun Thing” from the soundtrack playing in full.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Audio interview with costume designer Margot Wilson (15:25)
Margot Wilson, who won the AFI Award for Best Costumes for the film is interviewed by Alec Morgan for the NFSA (National Film and Sound Archive of Australia), as she discusses working with Hillcoat on various productions, doing research for period costumes, considering locations and themes, and more. Unfortunately this is just an excerpt and it cuts off abruptly as she is explaining about her work on “The Road”.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in English Dolby Digital 1.0 without subtitles

Audio interview with soundtrack composer Warren Ellis (2:38)
Ellis is interviewed by John Olson for the NFSA, as he discusses the creative process in making the music for “The Proposition” with Nick Cave and how they experimented in the studio.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in English Dolby Digital 1.0 without subtitles


The film was first released on Blu-ray in the United States by First Look in 2008 which had a commentary by Hillcoat and Cave, the making of featurettes, deleted scenes, a gallery, and a trailer. This mirrored the extras on First Look's DVD release and added some additional featurettes for the Blu-ray. A year later, Tartan released their Blu-ray in the UK, which had the Making-Of and the trailer, which was a big downgrade from the 2-disc DVD, which had the commentary, the Making-Of, 86 minutes of cast and crew interviews and two exclusive UK interviews. The Australian 2021 release has two exclusive audio interviews and has extensive vintage extras from the DVDs, but sadly lacks the Hillocoat and Cave commentary track found on many other releases.

Packaging

The inlay is reversible, with the only difference being the MA 15+ rating logo being removed.
The packaging states the disc is region B only but is in fact region ALL.

Overall

"The Proposition" is a modern classic that is brutally violent and emotional, showcasing an intense outback west with stellar performances and wonderful direction. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray features a great transfer for video and audio with a good amount of vintage extras plus two exclusive audio interviews. Though not having the commentary track found on other releases is unfortunate, it still comes as recommended.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: B Overall: A-

 


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