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Brokeback Mountain - Review

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: On Being A Cowboy; Directing From The Heart Ang Lee From Script To Screen Interviews With Larry McMurtry And Diana Ossana; Sharing The Story The Making Of Brokeback Mountain.

ANG Lee insists that he almost quit movies after his blockbuster experience on The Hulk but thank goodness he didn’t given the quality surrounding his latest project, Brokeback Mountain.

A beautifully-shot and expertly acted tale of forbidden love, this ‘gay western’ has already triumphed at film festivals such as Venice, while emerging as the top choice of many American critics in their films of 2005 round-ups.

Based upon E Annie Proulx’s iconic 30-page short story, Brokeback Mountain stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger as Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, two freelance farmhands who accept a job tending sheep on a remote mountain in 1963.

The first 30 minutes of Lee’s movie is all about build-up, as the two strangers get to know and trust each other, before eventually giving in to their unspoken desire.

The passion between them is shot in a no-nonsense style and for this reason seems all the more authentic.

Yet the repercussions of their relationship are as gloomy as the foreboding clouds that continually roll around Brokeback Mountain.

Once back in civilisation, Jack and Ennis must once again suppress their feelings, parting company for four years during which they accept dead-end jobs, marry and have children.

For Jack, however, the promise of a reunion fills him with hope, even though he finds himself stuck in a marriage of convenience to Anne Hathaway’s feisty romeo performer.

Ennis, however, is far more cautious and torn between his frustrated desires and the commitment and responsibility he feels towards his wife (Michelle Williams) and young family.

Jack and Ennis do occasionally meet up but their encounters become all too fleeting and only seem destined to end in tragedy, particularly as society has its own way of dealing with such sexual deviance.

Brokeback Mountain straddles the line between arthouse and mainstream with considerable aplomb, tackling a subject matter that is more commonly ‘indie’ in a style befitting the grand sweep of classic Hollywood.

It looks terrific, packed with stunning scenery of Brokeback Mountain, yet crucially feels authentic thanks in no small part to the commitment and devotion of his two main stars.

Gyllenhaal gets the showier role as the ever hopeful but somewhat reckless Jack but Ledger is a revelation as the tormented Ennis, who delivers a virtual tour-de-force of quiet longing and torturous self-doubt.

Williams, too, is similarly understated as Ennis’ wife, whose discovery of her husband’s secret is both touching and convincingly portrayed.

Lee’s ultimate triumph, however, is to turn a subject matter that could potentially be snigger-inducing into a genuinely affecting human drama that should strike a chord with even the biggest sceptic.

The final scenes, in particular, are heartbreakingly poignant and beautifully played, ensuring that Brokeback Mountain remains with you long after the final credits have been played.

It will undoubtedly remain one of the very best films of the year.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 134mins

  1. Saw this film in America while visiting and thought it was amazing. Congrats on the review. I couldn’t agree more. Heath Ledger’s performance is astonishing.

    Paul    Jan 7    #