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Brokeback Mountain

Reviewed By robertrosado
Posted 06/08/06 16:55:24

"The best film of 2005."
5 stars (Awesome)

I first saw "Brokeback Mountain" when it first opened in theaters, late last year. I left the cinema shaken, and not exactly sure what to say. As I lay awake that night, my mind remained stuck on this film. No matter how hard I tried, I could not shake this tragic and powerful tale. I began to wonder: What happens to these characters after the credits begin to roll? When a movie buries itself so thoroughly into your subconscious, you know that it is something special.

In the summer of 1963, young ranch hands Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) are signed on to work together on a Wyoming mountain range. At first, their relationship is strained, with Jack having to coax the shy Ennis into speaking. Soon, their bond deepens into something that neither of them expected: they fall in love. Once the summer ends, Ennis marries his fiancee, Alma Beers (Michelle Williams), and Jack weds spoiled rodeo queen Lureen. Through the eventual unhappiness and heartbreak that follows, the two risk their careers and lives by trying, once and for all, to follow their hearts in a time of discrimination.

Plain and simple: This film is a masterpiece, as only a sturdy and brave filmmaker like Ang Lee could deliver. He's in control at every turn. The pacing, the silences, the tears... Not since "Ordinary People" have I seen a movie that so truthfully and beautifully embraces the human spirit. These are not characters, these are real people. Real enough to make legions to moviegoers around the world care, listen, and feel.

The performances are uniformly strong. Michelle Williams's startlingly moving work may be just what she needed to have a long and healthy career. She is brilliant as Alma, Ennis's unhappy wife. The expression on Williams's face when Alma discovers Jack and Ennis kissing is chilling in its accuracy. Williams builds the character's growing angst, cumulating in an outburst that feels organic. I don't know how Williams prepared for this scene, but it has to be seen to be believed. Anne Hathaway also shines as Lureen, Jack's trophy wife. As we see Lureen's gradual descent into animosity, Hathaway's performance reaches its peak during a phone conversation between Lureen and Ennis. She's excellent.

The rest of the cast is great, too. In a textbook example of ensemble acting, there are no slackers here. Randy Quaid is stern and cold as Jack and Ennis's boss. The luminous Linda Cardellini, with approximately 15 to 20 lines, creates a believable human being in Cassie. Kate Mara is astonishing as Ennis's loyal daughter, leaving a lasting impression with only a handful of scenes. Anna Faris is refreshing and hilarious as LaShawn, Lureen's talkative friend. Finally, Canadian actress Roberta Maxwell makes a brief yet unforgettable appearance as Jack's mother. In a later scene with Ennis, she puts her hand on his shoulder, and whispers something to him. What she says, and how she says it, will send shivers down your spine.

However, the film belongs to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal is spirited and earnest as Jack, playing him as a caring soul. Jack wants nothing more than to be with Ennis, knowing full well that it's impossible. It is when Jack becomes bitter and angry that Gyllenhaal's portrayal hits its stride. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, Ledger's Ennis del Mar is the soul of this picture, and he could not be more stunning. Who would have expected Ledger - whose credits include "10 Things I Hate About You", "A Knight's Tale", and the acclaimed "Monster's Ball" - to deliver a performance of such depth and frightening understanding? Ennis is a man who lies to himself for so long, only to realize that he has wasted his life, and possibly ruined the life of those he loves. Ledger makes this internal variance feel palpable and transcendent, using masterful choices in voice and body language to create a man who is conflicted with himself. This is a focused and thrilling performance that will go down in history.

Technically, the film is flawless. The costumes are well-suited to the characters, and are carefully aged with the story, as well as the make-up and hair. The cinematography, by Rodrigo Prieto, flawlessly captures the breathtaking landscapes, as well as the nuances of the story. The sparse score by Gustavo Santaolalla is haunting in its simplicity. The editing, by Geraldine Peroni and Dylan Tichenor, is smooth and the pace is neither rushed nor sluggish.

As great as the production values are, none of it would matter if it were not for Ang Lee. Lee wisely starts the movie on an awkward note, illuminating Jack and Ennis's uncomfortable connection with one another. Once the plot finds its direction, the story moves swiftly through the decades, without ever feeling either static or intermittent. Lee finds the genuineness and clarity in the story, and gets miraculous results from his cast and production team. The themes that the film sets itself upon are tricky. One wrong look, one wrong note, and the whole thing could collapse under its own weight. Lee does not let this happen. It is also to his credit that the love scenes between the two men are as tasteful and romantic as they deserve to be.

As the film draws to a close, the final scenes are played with a perfect, bittersweet note that subtly hints at what could have been, and what may be. And it all happens without ever asking for your sympathy. Every once in a while, a movie is released that, for all intents and purposes, is flawless. A movie that is poetic, profound, skillfully made, and deeply felt. A movie that so diligently shakes the viewer to their very core, that is seems all but destined to become a classic. “Brokeback Mountain” is one of those movies. It’s the best film of 2005, and it should not be forgotten.

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