The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen Part I: The Proposition


Chances are that the name John Hillcoat doesn’t mean anything to you. You’ve never heard it, but you should have. Hillcoat is the man tapped to direct the adaptation of ‘finally getting the damned recognition he deserves author’ Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel, The Road, a book that despite being a post-apocalyptic tale, was selected for Oprah’s Book Club. Now, my problem with that book club aside (I fucking loved it when Jonathan Franzen told Oprah that there was no way in hell she could put his book in that club), The Road is pure McCarthy, bleak, dark, yet beautiful. Thanks to the success of the 2007’s best movie, No Country for Old Men, McCarthy’s works are hot. And if he’s so sought after, you ask, why give this movie to John Hillcoat? Who the fuck is he?

The answer to this question leads me to one of the better movies that no one has seen: The Proposition. In 2005, Hillcoat teamed with writer Nick Cave (as in Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds) to create this absolutely perfect Australian western set in the late 1800’s. The story follows a very simple premise: Outlaw Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce – Memento, LA Confidential) is given the titular proposition by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone – Beowulf, The Departed) – He can save his simple, damaged brother Mikey’s life by killing the worst of the family Arthur Burns (Danny Huston – Children of Men, The Aviator).


The performances by the three main players are absolutely stellar. Pearce is a likeable, principled villain. He has no qualms about murder, but he’s not a psychopath in any way. Winstone’s Captain Stanley is a simple man with his one desire to “civilize this place.” He recognizes that Arthur must be stopped, even if it means letting the others go. Huston menacingly steals his scenes as Arthur. He goes from torturing, murdering and raping a family to quoting poetry and talking about the beauty of the Outback. In addition to these three, Emily Watson, David Wenham and John Hurt manage to put in very enjoyable smaller performances. Nick Cave, of course, does a great job composing an emotional and haunting score.

The movie flies along headfirst towards its conclusion, never giving the audience a chance to catch their breath. The action is harsh and brutal; it dares you to keep watching, and the payoff is huge. The Proposition is a movie that will stay with you for days, and even two years after first watching the movie; there are still scenes I cannot forget. The Proposition is a movie that doesn’t leave you with a feeling of plot resolution, instead instilling in the viewers a feeling that may very well render them speechless for a few minutes, much in the way that No Country for Old Men does. That ability of Hillcoat’s, to render an emotional and heartfelt ending after a bleak and violent film, is why he is perfect to helm the adaptation of The Road.

– Meller


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Great choice for an unsung film. Unforgiven up next?

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