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In Australia in the 1880s, Charlie Burns and his brother Mikey are captured by Captain Morris Stanley after a frenzied gunfight. Together with their psychopathic brother Arthur, the Burns are wanted for a brutal crime. Captain Stanley puts before Charlie a dangerous, yet tempting proposition in a bid to bring an end to the cycle of violence: Charlie will be released if he agrees to hunt down his murderous older brother in order to save his other brother from the noose.
For more about The Proposition and the The Proposition Blu-ray release, see the The Proposition Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 7, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, Danny Huston, John Hurt, Noah Taylor
Director: John Hillcoat
» See full cast & crew
The Proposition Blu-ray Review
Another quality Western, another quality Blu-ray release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 7, 2010
In the end, justice will be done.
Here's a proposition: build a unique Western. For the tandem of Writer Nick Cave and Director John Hillcoat (The Road), it's mission accomplished with The Proposition, an emotionally-fatiguing and visually-vile picture that foregoes the traditional genre slant in favor of a brutally unforgiving tone that's both gripping and soul-shattering at the same time. A film where the emotional and psychological pain proves far more devastating than a gunshot to the gut, The Proposition tells a story with no winners or losers and no heroes or villains, just a collection of characters that are all in some way fundamentally flawed and through their actions only seem to make their lives -- and the lives of those around them -- worse, even if somewhere inside of them is an inkling that says what they're doing is in some way right or justified. The Proposition is a tragedy in the truest sense of the word, a film where nobody escapes some sort of pain -- physical, emotional, or both -- for their deeds and even associations, the picture a brutally honest examination of a world spiraling out of control. Though maybe not for Western traditionalists, The Proposition is nevertheless a must-see film for its take on the storied genre; viewers only need be prepared for a gut-wrenching experience that's sure to linger long after it comes to an end.
In the Australian Outback circa 1880, brothers Charlie (Guy Pearce, Memento) and Mikey (Richard Wilson) Burns are caught after a violent shootout with Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone, Edge of Darkness). They're to die for their crimes, but Stanley offers Charlie a proposition: hunt down and kill his own brother Arthur (Danny Huston, 30 Days of Night), and he can Mikey can go free. Fail, and Mikey will be hung on Christmas day. Charlie accepts, leaving Mikey behind and in the midst of a bloodthirsty populace. Arthur's been accused of the brutal slaughter of the Hopkins family -- which included a pregnant woman -- a crime for which there must be retribution. Stanley finds himself in the awkward position of doing his duty and trying to make his corner of the world a better place, all the while protecting the well-being of his wife Martha (Emily Watson, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep) -- who was well-acquainted with members of the recently-deceased Hopkins clan -- from the truth of the deal he's made concerning the brothers Burns. As word gets out of the deal between Stanley and Charlie, many around town demand blood, even if it comes from Mikey; what's to follow is a brutal example of justice, anger, and revenge all gone terribly awry.
The Proposition is a superbly-crafted film; no matter one's vantage point -- analyzing the direction, performances, themes, structure, drama, or emotion -- the film simply excels in every category, creating a spellbinding picture that's exceptionally good at being patently ugly. Yes, The Proposition leaves nothing wanting on an emotional level by the time the picture ends; it's an altogether draining experience, a movie that's sometimes difficult to look at but one that's equally impossible from which to turn away. Director John Hillcoat proves a master craftsman through his work in The Proposition, not only with his impeccable sense of visual structure but also through the way he weaves a dark, disturbing, and altogether frightening picture with such grace and clarity, never turning to more traditional methods -- a bleak visual scheme or a rough and gritty texture -- to make it work. He allows the picture's story and themes to construct the downtrodden, rotten feel for him, and it works wonderfully, even as these elements contrast with the picture's many bright locales and gorgeously-captured exteriors and sunset shots. He -- and with the help of Writer Nick Cave's incredible score-as-poetry -- frames the peace of the still world against the ugliness that man introduces into it in a way that's never been accomplished quite like this in any other film.
The Proposition is brutally violent, but only in small spurts; the picture is more of a cerebral examination of the complexities of its main characters, many of whom portray some degree of both good and bad, and it's that point-counterpoint that makes the movie work so well. Amidst the violence -- The Proposition is just about as blood-soaked as any other Western out there -- is an almost surreal quality that helps in viewing the picture from a slightly detached perspective so as to not become completely overwhelmed by the disturbing on-screen series of events. In the end, however -- and this seems to be the movie's point -- there's just no escape from the ugliness that can and does find its way into the world, even amidst gorgeous locales and the dream-like quality of several scenes. Indeed, the picture is ripe with juxtaposition between elements, whether the awe-inspiring landscapes that become bloody battlegrounds for misguided beliefs and hateful spite or the contrast between the dusty, unkempt locals and characters and the beautiful, clean, and well-groomed Martha. By the final minutes of the movie, just when it seems that, maybe, two characters have found in Christmas a reprieve from all the dastardly deeds happening around them, the picture punches the audience one final time for what is the most difficult sequence in the film. In The Proposition, there's no escape from confusion, chaos, hate, and blood, even amidst the wanting to be free of it all, and it's that uneasy and emotionally-punishing aspect where the movie enjoys its greatest success.
The Proposition Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Proposition rides onto Blu-ray with a strong 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer that captures both the movie's picturesque locales and its ugly underbelly equally well. Of surprise is the absence of a more potent grain structure; one look at what the movie is all about would lead one to believe that it would be swirling in director-intended grain to give it that rougher texture that's come to define movies of this style, but The Proposition is incredibly smooth throughout. To smooth? Not really. There doesn't seem to have been much in the way of artificial grain removal; the image retains natural detailing on most every surface, whether John Hurt's wrinkly face or the rocky and pebbly terrain that's seen throughout the movie. Additionally, the transfer does a great job of capturing the caked-on dirt, dust, grime, blood, and sweat that seem ever-present on faces and clothes. Though some elements look significantly softer than others, there's an equal amount of sharpness to much of the image that, on the whole, impresses a great deal. The transfer often exhibits a good sense of depth. Blacks are nicely resolved -- deep and dark -- without exhibiting any excessive crushing effect, and flesh tones are more often than not neutral in shade, effected more by dirt and blood and environmental conditions than any wayward element of the transfer to Blu-ray. Overall, this is a solid effort from First Look; it's not quite a reference-grade presentation, but fans should be more than pleased with what this disc has to offer from a visual perspective.
The Proposition Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Proposition sports a quality Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack that brings the dusty and violence-ridden 1880s Australian Outback to rich, sometimes mesmerizing, life. Following a subdued opening title sequence, the track tosses the listener into the middle of an intense shootout that's easily one of the best of its kind on Blu-ray, even rivaling some of the elements from another standout Western Blu-ray soundtrack, 3:10 to Yuma. In this sequence, the soundstage becomes flooded with the sounds of gunfire and seemingly riddled with bullets; rounds zip all over the listening area and seem to emanate from every corner, and the resultant impacts on metal surfaces brings an almost paralyzing effect as it seems that at any moment a stray round might come through a speaker. Then, almost as quickly as the shooting began, there's silence, with only the stench of death and the buzzing of a fly penetrating the listening area. Weapons fire is strongly realized throughout the rest film, making excellent use of the entire soundstage and the subwoofer, too. The Proposition's lossless soundtrack also excels in creating a palpable environment; atmospherics effects are well-integrated, including a chilling breeze that blows about the listening area in chapter seven. Dialogue, too, is naturally and cleanly delivered throughout. This is a well-rounded track that immerses the listener into the picture, making it a strong companion to an already engrossing motion picture.
The Proposition Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Proposition draws a hearty collection of extras, the package headlined by an audio commentary track and a lengthy documentary. The commentary, featuring Director John Hillcoat and Writer/Composer Nick Cave, proves a bit dry in delivery but high on informative content, the participants speaking on the intent behind their opening title sequence, the juxtaposition with the following violent shootout, the difficulties -- particularly the extreme heat -- of the shoot, the performances of the cast, the picture's unique musical elements, the look of the film as it was intended versus how it looks on home video, and much, much more. Fans of the film owe it to themselves to spend extra time with Hillcoat and Cave. Inside 'The Proposition' (480p, 1:08:13) is a massive nine-part documentary that covers a wide swath of information surrounding the creation of The Proposition. Elements include the penning of the script and the ideas behind the film, an examination of the many characters in the film, the research and history that helped make the film more authentic, the themes found in the story, the difficulties of the shoot, the cast and crew's thoughts on the work of Director John Hillcoat, the camaraderie of the cast, shooting in the town of Winton, and the process of shooting on the Aboriginal community's sacred lands. Next is The Making of 'The Proposition' (480p, 27:27), another fine documentary that covers the origins of the project, the elements of the story, the history of the period, the picture's score, the challenges presented by the harsh shooting locations, and an examination of the various characters and the respective actors that play major roles in the film. Rounding out this collection of extras is a photo gallery (1080p); several deleted scenes (480p, 11:55); the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:25); and additional trailers for The Contract, King of California, The Amateurs, War, Inc., Meet Bill, Sukiyaki Western Django, and Blood Brothers.
The Proposition Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A superbly-crafted film in every regard, The Proposition is an exceptional Western, even if it proves drastically different from other genre pictures. Even those movies that have come to define the Western -- from the works of John Wayne to Clint Eastwood -- there's never been anything quite like the brutality of The Proposition, from either a visual or emotional perspective. The picture further distinguishes itself with a dream-like feel to many of its visuals and musical accompaniments; Director John Hillcoat's picture is just as concerned with style as it is substance, and the two work in glorious harmony to lend to the film an epic-in-scope feel while also creating a movie that's as emotionally poignant as it is brutally violent. It's a mixture that works extraordinarily well, making The Proposition an instant classic that needs to be mentioned alongside the great Westerns of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. First Look's Blu-ray release of The Proposition is impossible to refuse. Featuring a standout technical presentation and a hearty dose of extra content, The Proposition is a necessary addition to every Blu-ray library, particularly considering its bargain pricing. Highly recommended.
The Proposition: Other Editions
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The Proposition Blu-ray, News and Updates
• First Look Announces The Proposition for Blu-ray - May 1, 2008
First Look Home Entertainment has announced that they will release the western ‘The Proposition' for Blu-ray on August 19th. The film, which stars Guy Pearce, quickly became an indie cult hit when it was released on DVD in 2006. No technical specs have been announced ...
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