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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Jake Gyllenhaal
Heath Ledger
Anne Hathaway
Michelle Williams
Randy Quaid.
Directors
Ang Lee.
Screenwriters
Larry McMurtry
Diana Ossana.
Running Time
134 minutes

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Brokeback Mountain
Ang Lee's moving story of love in the not so ol' West.


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Plot
The year is 1963 and two jobbing farmhands (Gyllenhaal and Ledger) take a gig tending sheep on a remote mountain. During their months alone, they form a bond that extends to a sexual relationship, but once the job is finished they return to their daily lives. However, the attraction remains, and will haunt them over the next two decades.


Review
Brokeback Mountain

When word first reached us that, after the critical opprobrium heaped on Hulk, Ang Lee was turning his attention to what was only ever described in the press as a “gay Western”, we thought he’d taken leave of his senses — and, indeed, sensibility. A director with a remarkably broad palette, Lee had trademarked a devastating understatement in films as controlled and anguished as The Ice Storm, while Crouching Tiger revealed his magic touch extended to action too. Now there was a sense that maybe he was about to overreach himself, or (worst-case scenario) had lost all sense of identity and was about to over-indulge himself. Then, when stories leaked that the Cannes Film Festival had given it the thumbs-down this year — in favour of a line-up that consisted of directors we’d definitely consider to be his peers — it really seemed that the shit was about to hit Lee’s fans.

We needn’t have worried. Brokeback Mountain may even be Lee’s finest film to date, an amalgamation of the work he’s done before but pushed forward into the realms of, well, something we’ve never seen before. Though the opening half-hour is dream-like and idyllic, recalling the more beautiful landscapes in Gus Van Sant’s most mainstream movies (My Own Private Idaho specifically), Lee’s film takes arthouse conventions and absorbs them into a style that, while never approaching commercial, is both romantic and accessible. Much of this is down to the two leads — neo-Hollywood heartthrobs playing, to one degree only, against type — but Lee is careful with his framing and the first half hour — that ominous lead-up to the first graphic fumble — is suffused with rare beauty and an almost palpable sense of place.

Half an hour of mountains, sheep, changing seasons and minimal dialogue may seem a leap for most audiences, but Lee’s touch is light instead of stately, and he leads us slowly into an affair that would otherwise seem forced and clumsy. As he says himself, Brokeback Mountain itself is a key supporting player in the film, a place where nobody else matters — or, more importantly, is. It’s a vital part of the movie that prepares us for the inevitable day when Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) come down from their idyll and try to pick up their lives where they’d left off. Both enter into half-hearted marriages, have children and take shitty jobs, but the memory of the time on the mountain lingers. Could it last in the real world? Jack, ever the idealist, thinks so; Ennis, the fatalist and the realist, knows otherwise, shrinking back into his armour of plaid and leather.

It’s here that Lee’s film truly announces its intentions, and for a good portion of the drama Jack and Ennis are far apart; in fact, they don’t even communicate for four years. In the meantime, they settle into drudgery and roles they resent, but Lee’s masterstroke is to pull the camera back from their interior world. What sounds on paper like a traditional gay independent movie does not follow the usual formula and actually gives voice to its audience’s prejudices and apprehensions. We hear their Brokeback boss, Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid), snidely pass judgment (“You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there”), and when Ennis’ wife (a poignant Michelle Williams) sees exactly what the score is with Jack, her confusion — and indeed revulsion — is key to the film’s climax, if it can be said to reach one in the usual sense.

But enough of Lee and his dexterity and subtlety — we’ve known about it all along, even in Hulk, which, for all the kerfuffle and despite a lumpy ending, was a sensitive sins-of-the-father story wrapped up in genre clothing. Jake Gyllenhaal, too, is something of a known quantity, a lugubrious presence whose big blue eyes will make Brokeback a paradoxically compelling object of morbid passion for teenage girls the whole world over. And we’ll forget the terrific marketing strategy of having The Princess Diaries’ star Anne Hathaway make her topless debut. No, the real revelation here is Heath Ledger as the bruised and sometimes brutal Ennis.

His tortured secret is the tragedy and the ecstasy of this powerful and moving film, a smart study of relationships that could but can’t and never will be.


Verdict
Those made uneasy by the subject-matter have little to fear from this elegiac and engrossing drama, a wonderful meditation on longing and regret shot with an eye for classic Hollywood. Gyllenhaal gets the show-role, but Ledger’s buttoned-down performance is a triumph of quiet complexity.


Reviewed by Damon Wise

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Brokeback Mountain
Empire Star Rating

Brokeback Mountain Review

A beautiful, epic Western, Brokeback Mountain's love story is imbued with heartbreaking universality thanks to moving performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. My best film of 2005. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 12:56, 18 March 2012 | Report This Post


Reminded me a lot of Bridges Over Madison County in it's speed and atmosphere. Loved it!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Corjac at 23:00, 09 March 2011 | Report This Post


Brokeback Mountain

so speechless! robbed by crash :( ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Drapiroh at 02:24, 26 January 2011 | Report This Post


A Beautiful Haunting Film.

Brokeback Mountain is a beautiful haunting film that will linger in your thoughts for a good long while. The acting from the cast is outstanding, especially Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. The scenery and the music is stunning, calming and fits just right for this film. I can't see why this was shunned from the Oscar glory for Crash, sure it was a good film but this is something different and there are plenty of Crash like movies are being made now and then. The final twenty minutes or so are ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 10:10, 04 November 2009 | Report This Post


A powerful, moving film with a very unique and daring love story at its centre but it never allows that to upset the drama. Great acting, stunning visuals and a really keen eye from Ang Lee which is never anything less subtle. A truly beautiful film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 16:46, 03 October 2008 | Report This Post


Ang Lee's direction of what should be a heart wrenching love story is juvenile at best. Compared to the power of the story it is based on, Lee's slow, ponderous, and contrite portrayal seems to mock the subject and destroy the love that should exist in the movie. Lee banked on controversy to sell the movie and forgot he still had make a movie worth watching. I hate to be a "I'm a fan of the book (short story) so the movie is terrible" kind of people, but when on one hand you have sto... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by prisefighter at 06:14, 26 September 2008 | Report This Post


Brokeback Mountain

It’s a contemporary story about a forbidden love that takes place in the beautiful landscapes of Wyoming… Up to here it looks like a completely common love story, but everything changes when it’s said that the never-meant-to-be lovers are two cowboys. This time director Ang Lee breaks all boundaries and all prejudices to create a love/drama movie that unfortunately many may incorrectly label “gay” movie. Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Maria Nunes G. P. at 10:49, 28 August 2008 | Report This Post


Heart Breaking

This is a great love story. Heart breaking and stunning acting. Don't really understand skeletonjack's comments about people feeling like they should like this film to be PC, as this is a great heart breaking film. Worth watching, it is slow but that only builds a stronger story. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dja_list at 17:57, 22 March 2008 | Report This Post


i haven't seen the film so i'm rating it in between what people have done. I just wanted to say that i totally see where skeletonjack is coming from and i agree with you on the fact that some people say what they think is right to say so they don't offend anyone or anything, not what they believe. good point. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mozzy_gal at 20:25, 28 November 2007 | Report This Post


ang lee rarely failes to suprise ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 10:50, 22 October 2007 | Report This Post


ang lee rarely failes to suprise ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 10:50, 22 October 2007 | Report This Post


"It actually showes the cowboys fucking each other up the ass" How pathetic and small-minded. Take your "opinions" (AKA homophobia) elsewhere. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by killervideotape at 13:18, 10 May 2007 | Report This Post


Boring, tedious, and plodding. Are we all watching the same movie? No one I know who has seen this movie liked it. The acting is terrible, the accents are atrocious, the writing is decent at best (hard to believe it was written by the same man who did Lonesome Dove), and the directing is adequate. The only saving grace is the cinematography and the attractive stars. I applaud the subject matter and its boldness but thought it could have been MUCH better. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 21:53, 18 April 2007 | Report This Post


Why the love????

I really don't understand why people love this movie, for me it's slow and tedious. Decent acting yes, but its so boring...... It's obvious that people on this forum like the movie, but for me its the type of film people say they like because they feel thats what they should say rather than what they actually believe. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by skeletonjack at 21:44, 29 March 2007 | Report This Post


Ang Lee's elegant drama, appears at first to threaten to spill over into melodrama, however, due to a understated and senstive script, quietly powerful acting from all concerned and a hushed, dream-like soundtrack, Lee creates a vivid landscape of longing and heartbreak. Unfortunately, the meaningful silences tend to grate after a while, but other than it's saggy middle section, everything about the film works. Michelle Williams and Ledger stand out amongst an excellent cast, but it's the heartb... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by killervideotape at 03:43, 13 February 2007 | Report This Post


Stately

Great performances, yes, but otherwise it's not really sure what it wants to say and takes a long time to not say it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 16:24, 13 January 2007 | Report This Post


Stately

Great performances, yes, but otherwise it's not really sure what it wants to say and takes a long time to not say it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 16:24, 13 January 2007 | Report This Post


A brilliantly acted and unbearably sad romance. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 13:44, 04 January 2007 | Report This Post


Fantastic

What is great about this story, is that the focus is not purely on sex. Yes, we know that it happens, and some people may say it is too graphic, but it is essential to the story. The passion between the two men extends beyond that of passion for sex, but is a true, heartfelt love that they know they have never and will never have with anyone else. The time they dont spend together makes them realise how much they need eachother, which makes this fim all the more beautiful and moving. They hav... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Elf_princess1 at 12:39, 03 January 2007 | Report This Post


simple

every aspect to this story is five stars, from the landscapes to the acting on to the soundtrack, the list continues, only a fool would not recognise this masterpiece of cinema. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lielow at 08:15, 22 November 2006 | Report This Post


this movie is nothing but a true classic top acting and breathtaking shots that blow you away. A movie that should be noticed for its efforts ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by A Man at 20:54, 18 November 2006 | Report This Post


Superior Film making!

I would rank this as an essential classic film of this decade. Powerful perfomances, a great score and beautifully shot. Brokeback Mountain has it all in premium quality. It is a little worrying that people get so snared up upon the fact it's about a love story netween two men. The point is that it is the tale of a beautiful love story that transends through the years. Grnated the fact that the subject is taboo at the period of the film is a factor to be taken in but it shouldn't be dwelled upon... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rich Empire at 20:15, 31 July 2006 | Report This Post


An enjoyable interesting film whose main theme is love denied rather than gay cowboys. Both central actors prove there worth and tackle the subject in a beautiful and unexpected way. heath ledger specifically proves his worth and shows he is more than fluffy rom coms and denonstartes his characters turmoil silently yet resonately. The only concern in this film is the portayl of the women michelle willaims never away from a baby sink or tabard and anne hathaway with her ever more dolly partonesqu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ben454 at 14:52, 15 June 2006 | Report This Post


An enjoyable interesting film whose main theme is love denied rather than gay cowboys. Both central actors prove there worth and tackle the subject in a beautiful and unexpected way. heath ledger specifically proves his worth and shows he is more than fluffy rom coms and denonstartes his characters turmoil silently yet resonately. The only concern in this film is the portayl of the women michelle willaims never away from a baby sink or tabard and anne hathaway with her ever more dolly partonesqu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ben454 at 14:52, 15 June 2006 | Report This Post


Stunning movie

First of all - I loved the movie and think it is a true masterpiece. One thing that really annoys me is when people (like dunner05) say the following: "Had it been a hetero pairing at its centre and chances are most reviewers would have awarded the more deserving three stars than the overwrought five." Yes, perhaps this is true. But then, surely that's just like saying "Oh, Titanic wouldn't have been as popular if it weren't set on a ship", or, "King Kong wouldn't have got such rave ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by connyt at 09:24, 31 May 2006 | Report This Post


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