Monday, 10 December 2012

Alternate Best Actor 2005: Ray Winstone in The Proposition

Ray Winstone did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Captain Morris Stanley in The Proposition.

Ray Winstone portrays the other lead of the film the lawman who makes the most unusual proposition to Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) to kill his brother. Winstone like Pearce gives a very understated performance as the Captain who gives this proposition in his attempt to civilize the Australian Outback. Winstone really has a rather interesting role as the Captain, as this role really very easily could have been an unsympathetic character. After all Winstone certainly is not opposed to playing unsympathetic roles, but in this case Winstone actually gives the most sympathetic performance he probably has ever given.

In his very first scene when the Captain makes the Proposition Ray Winstone portrays it with a calm but clear authority. He shows the Captain who very much intends to get what he wants, but more importantly Winstone here does not portray the Captain as a small minded man. The Captain in telling Charlie about the proposition also tells him how he plans to civilize the land. Winstone in does particularly well in portraying the Captain's sentiments here as partially dream perhaps, but he makes the Captain's statement as one of earnestness and entirely genuine. He makes the Captain an honest man, who is very easy to empathize with his plight.

Winstone is brilliant in internalizing so well the pain the Captain feels over his difficult struggle to try to fulfill his duties. Winstone is perfect in honestly showing how the responsibilities weigh very heavily on the Captain. Winstone importantly shows that the Captain still is very able, intelligent, knowledgeable of what it is that he is doing. Winstone though always conveys that underneath the Captain never is able to alleviate all that is on his mind due to all that is required of him of his job. Winstone carefully never makes this as something too overbearing in his performance, but rather something that is simply part of the Captain he can't get over.

One of the most important parts of the story with the Captain is his relationship with his wife Martha (Emily Watson). The relationship between the two is extremely understated, and at times quite unspoken. Winstone, and Watson are terrific together because despite the quietness in their relationship the two are able to bring to life the two unrequited love together clearly, even though their is a distance as well. Winstone is excellent because through his tenderness in the moments with Watson he shows that the Captain does very much love his wife very deeply, but at the same Winstone always portrays a certain distance as well. Winstone though is careful to show it comes from not wanting to share his pain, and horrible experiences though.

Winstone is terrific in creating the Captain as a man who honestly does want to do what his right, and there is nothing underhanded about his desire to civilize. Winstone is always great in reflecting the very real dangers that the Captain entirely understands, which is especially true in the scene where the Captain's bureaucrat superior Fletcher (David Wenham) orders that the captured and mentally troubled Burns's brother Mikey be whipped for the crimes of Arthur Burns. Winstone, though still staying reserved, is very moving as the Captain tries to convince Fletcher both for the fact that he knows Mikey's mental state, but as well knows what will happen if the proposition is broken. Winstone is amazing as he powerfully shows in this scene the way the Captain can barely hold back his pain due to knowledge of what the consequences will be.

This is really an outstanding performance by Ray Winstone because really the Captain in lesser hands could have been a throwaway part almost, as the complexities of the man could have easily been lost. Winstone though makes the Captain a fascinating three dimensional character whom we can easily empathize with. Importantly though he makes the Captain story just as interesting, and in fact more powerful even than the other half with the Burns brothers. Truthfully the Captain story could have seemed dull compared to the crazy and violent Burns clan. Winstone though never allows his half of the story to sink for even a moment though. He uplifts it at all times creating a full fledged and incredibly poignant portrait of a man whose dream to civilize becomes a nightmare of chaos.


RatedRStar said...

he is a very underated actor who doesnt get enough credit, most people just see him as a cockney Jason Statham type.

Michael Patison said...

I completely agree, RatedRStar. That's actually what I was going to post. He's also really great in Nil by Mouth.

Anonymous said...

He really is fantastic here. Much more interesting thsn Guy Pearce. Could you consider reviewing him in Nil By Mouth (as mentioned above?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Love love LOVE this performance. A career best for an underrated thesp. I'm on the edge of considering him Leading or Supporting.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: I'll certainly keep him in consideration for that year.

kook160: I put him in lead fairly easily since he has many solo scenes, and the film pretty evenly divides the time between the Captain and Charlie.