The Proposition [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (8th April 2022).
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.

"The Proposition" was first released in the UK on DVD back in 2006 by Tartan Video in a great 2-disc set with a wealth of extras including a commentary and numerous featurettes and interviews. They upgraded it to Blu-ray in 2010 but strangely it was a downgrade in extras as it only ported one featurette and nothing else. While the film has always looked great on the DVD and Blu-ray formats over the years, the BFI have gladly gone one step further with a brand new 4K restoration of film, and presenting it on the 4K UltraHD Blu-ray format for a worldwide first.

Note this is a region ALL 4K UltraHD Blu-ray & region B standard Blu-ray set


The BFI presents the film in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 2160p HEVC with HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The original Super 35mm negative of was scanned at 4K resolution, with the restoration and color grading being supervised by John Hillcoat and Benoit Delhomme, undertaken at Silver Salt Restoration. Colors play an important role in the film with the golden brown hues of the outback, and the transfer here is absolutely exceptional. From the deep yellows to the dark red of the bloodstains all come in clear and crisp. The detail is wonderful, from the dirt on people's faces to the flies that inhabit every set. Film grain is kept intact though there are still some minor speckles that can be spotted in rare occasions. There are no issues of digital compression or artifacts, looking very filmlike throughout the runtime.

Compared to older transfers which already looked quite good on DVD and Blu-ray, colors are richer and detail is much sharper due to the new restoration and the sharper new format. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray from 2021 looked wonderful on initial viewing, but in comparison to this new 4K release, it's evident that the colors are a bit more on the muted side on that release. It does look good, but there is quite an upgrade with the BFI release.

The film's runtime is 103:51.


English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English LPCM 2.0 stereo

There are two audio tracks available. A lossless 5.1 track and an uncompressed stereo track. 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. The score by Cave and Ellis with some vocal cues by Cave are very well mixed and sound excellent as well. There seems to be no major difference between the 5.1 track here and previous editions, all having the same separations. There are no issues of dropouts, hiss, or other damage to be heard.

There are optional English HoH subtitles in a white font, which also caption the song lyrics. They are clear, well timed, and easy to read without errors.


The extras are spread across two discs, with the film and some extras on the 4K disc and the rest of the extras on a bonus Blu-ray.

DISC ONE (Blu-ray 4K)

Audio commentary with director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave
In this commentary from 2006, Hillcoat and Cave discuss the making of the film from its initial ideas of making an Australian western with brutal honesty, the details and research done, difficulties with the logistics, the casting and the characters, Australia's difficult colonial history, and more. As this was initially recorded for the 2006 Tartan Video DVD release, there are some comments about how the DVD format has its limitations with the colors and detail. These comments have been kept in here without edits.
in English DTS 2.0 without subtitles

Audio commentary with film critics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson
In this newly recorded commentary from 2021, Australian critics Heller-Nicholas and Nelson both discuss the film from an Aussie viewpoint with light into the whitewashing of history, the deplorable treatment of Aboriginals in colonial times as depicted, the new wave of Australian films in the early 2000s that shed more light on untold Australian history, the passing of David Gulpilil and his importance in Australian cinema and arts, details on the making of the film, its reception, and much more.
in English DTS 2.0 without subtitles

"John Hillcoat and Nick Cave in Conversation" 2021 audio interview (53:06)
In this newly recorded audio conversation, Cave and Hillcoat have a remote conversation recalling quite a lot of things regarding their careers. From their early works such as “Ghosts… of the Civil Dead” and the music videos, the drive for making an Australian period western, the screenwriting process, the difficulty with the financing from Australian backers, a funny story of Cave directly calling Pearce, the writing and composing of the score, and more. The visuals are made up of behind the scenes production photos in a slideshow form. Hillcoat is on the other end of the call so his audio is not as clear as Cave’s, and there are times their dialogue overlaps making it hard to hear with the call sometimes muting each other.
in 2160p HEVC, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

Stills Gallery (4:03)
An automated slideshow gallery of on set stills by photographer Polly Borland is presented here without audio.
in 2160p HEVC

2022 Trailer (1:12)
The new UK trailer for the 4K restoration is presented here, and also embedded below.
in 2160p HEVC, in 2.35:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

DISC TWO (Blu-ray)

"The Making of The Proposition" featurette (27:21)
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. Note this featurette was also available on the original Tartan UK DVD from 2006.
in 1080i50 (upscaled) AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

"Inside The Proposition" featurettes (with Play All) (43:09)
- Introduction & Script (9:05)
- Characters (8:15)
- Research & History (17:19)
- Themes (8:29)

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. Some of the interviews such as Hillcoat and Cave are done well after the completion of the shooting while others are interviewed on set.
in 1080i50 (upscaled) AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1 (windowboxed), in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

"Shooting The Proposition" featurettes (with Play All) (24:55)
- Shooting in the Heat (6:32)
- On John Hillcoat (4:15)
- On Working Together (6:27)
- On Winlon, the Location (5:06)
- On Shooting on Sacred Land (2:32)

Here are more featurettes which also include footage from the above "Making Of" so again there is some repeated information as it uses the same interview sessions but edited differently. Discussed topics are self explanatory, focusing on the shooting of the film. With the on-set interviews, there are an incredible amount of flies that constantly try to fly in the faces of the actors as they try to swat they away.
in 1080i50 (upscaled) AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

B-Roll Footage (19:32)
Presented here is raw behind the scenes footage. From the extreme heat, the incredible number of flies to a massive thunderstorm, the footage captures some of the more difficult moments of production as well as some of the fun behind the scenes. Note this footage was originally available on the Tartan UK DVD from 2006 as part of their lengthy “Meet the Cast and Crew” reel along with the above featurettes.
in 1080i50 (upscaled) AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

Interview with Guy Pearce (13:38)
In this interview from 2006 to promote the UK release of the film, Pearce discusses working with Hillcoat, Cave’s script, the collaboration process, the historical research, the locations and more. Note this interview was originally available on the Tartan UK DVD from 2006.
in 1080i50 (upscaled) AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

Interview with Danny Huston (7:32)
Another interview from 2006 for the initial UK release, Huston discusses the script, the harsh locations and atmosphere, his character, his favorite scene, and more. Note this interview was originally available on the Tartan UK DVD from 2006.
in 1080i50 (upscaled) AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

Stills Galleries
- Original Publicity Stills (4:02)
- Costume Designs and Sketches by Margot Wilson (1:33)

Two more silent slideshow galleries are here, first with a series of color publicity stills of the cast on set and the second with sketches by costume designer Margot Wilson.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

- UK Teaser Trailer (1:38)
- Original UK Theatrical Trailer (2:07)

The original UK trailers from 2005 by Tartan Films are presented here.
in 1080i50 AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

80 page book
Included is a hefty 80 page book. First is "The Happy Land: Other Years and Other Worlds", written by Hillcoat in 2021 as he reflects back on the making of the film with the background of the making of the film, the research done, his near fatal accident just before production started, nature's destruction of the film set after the film wrapped, and more. Next is the essay "Living and Dying Alone: The Proposition, John Hillcoat and the Outsider Experience" written by film tutor and author Andrew Graves looks at the film's themes and its portrayal of history. Then we have "The Proposition: Notes on Style", a 'statement of intent' written by Hillcoat before production began detailing the intentions of the film. The next essay is "The Proposition: Imagining Race, Family and Violence on the 19th Century Australian Frontier" by Catriona Elde, honorary associate professor at the University of Sydney, which is a very detailed breakdown of the film, the complex issues of the historical background, and much more. "Dalaithngu Meets Mr Lewis" by actress Leah Purcell who played the character of Queenie in the film gives a new recollection of her time making the film. Next there is "I Will Civilize This Land: Settler Vilence and Indigenous Sovereignty in The Proposition" by Dr Stephen Morgan discusses the changing landscape of Australia at the time the film was set in and the roles of the differing indigenous characters and what they reflect. "A Memory..." is a touching recollection of late actor Tommy Lewis written by producer Cat Villiers. This is followed by an undated review of the film by critic Adrian Martin, pointing out its importance as well as a few of its minor flaws. Then we have composer Warren Ellis in a new written piece recalling the writing and composing of the memorable score. Finally, there are special features information, transfer information, acknowledgements, and stills.

While this new 4K UltraHD Blu-ray release is stacked with extras from the BFI with both new and vintage material, a notable omission is the deleted scenes not being available. There were about 12 minutes of deleted scenes available on the US DVD and Blu-ray from First Look while the Australian Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray from last year unearthed a total of 27 minutes of deleted scenes. As Hillcoat does make mention of them in the commentary track, it's a little unfortunate they are not included here in this new release from the BFI, but to note they were also not available on the original UK DVD from Tartan Video. In addition to that, the Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray had two exclusive audio interviews, but the disc sadly lacked the Hillcoat and Cave commentary track. At this point the BFI release is the only release of this film in the 4K format, though there is a separate 2-disc standard Blu-ray release also available simultaneously for those that haven't made the jump to 4K yet.

Other notable clips:

BFI Player introduction by Mark Kermode

2022 reunion Q&A following a screening of the 4K restoration

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis: "The Rider Song" from the soundtrack album

Full playlist of the soundtrack album, from the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds YouTube channel


"The Proposition" is a modern classic that is brutally violent and emotional, showcasing an intense outback west with stellar performances and wonderful direction. The BFI has done an exceptional job with the 4K restoration of the film and bringing it to the 4K UltraHD Blu-ray format here with this stacked package. Great new and vintage extras and a lengthy book makes this an easy recommendation as one of the best releases of the year so far.

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


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