The Proposition

Director: John Hillcoat
Screenwriters: Nick Cave

Institute History

  • 2006 Sundance Film Festival


Nick Cave, the iconic Australian musician, marks his debut as a solo screenwriter with an intense, superbly crafted Australian western and journey through the mythology of the bush frontier. The Burns brothers' gang—Arthur, Charlie, and 14 year-old Mikey—are allegedly responsible for the savage rape and murder of a settler family. After capturing two of them, British trooper Captain Stanley offers Charlie a proposition: young Mikey will hang on Christmas day unless Charlie finds and kills Arthur, his older brother and leader of the gang. What follows is a mythic exploration of colonization, racism, rituals of violence, and familial bonds in this compelling, and at times astonishingly violent, story that re-energizes the genre.

The Proposition boasts full-bore performances by Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone. Pearce gives Charlie a stillness and grave introspection overlaid with feral cunning, while Winstone, as Stanley, rumbles with a tempered intensity as only he can. Equally impressive is the wild barrenness of the terrain; with its shimmering heat, flies, dust, and dead trees against a vast, empty sky, it becomes an integral character in itself. Despite its savagery, The Proposition is a superbly poetic and original film, showcasing the immense talents of director John Hillcoat in a graphic, haunting story of brotherly love, betrayal and redemption, and the consequence of violence.

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

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