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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

Put aside the arthouse director, eye-candy-with-talent leading men, Oscar buzz and 'worthy' message, and what you're left with is a fairly standard love story, albeit one with slightly more cock than usual. 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. Good, but certainly no more plaudit-worthy than the other over-praised Oscar-pretender, Crash ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dunner05 at 16:40, 22 May 2006 | Report This Post


Well worth the wait!

I first read about Brokeback Mountain in Empire way back in November, 2005. From the moment I had read the review and article, I just knew that it would be a moving, beautiful film. I read all I could about Brokeback Mountain until I finally saw it on January 6th 2006. I can honestly say the whole film reached a new level for me because it was like no other film I had seen before. The pacing was impeccable, the story heartwrenching, the cinematography amazing and the acting was truly stunnin... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by smeagolsam at 15:46, 12 May 2006 | Report This Post


I first read about Brokeback Mountain in Empire way back in November, 2005. From the moment I had read the review and article, I just knew that it would be a moving, beautiful film. I read all I could about Brokeback Mountain until I finally saw it on January 6th 2006. I can honestly say the whole film reached a new level for me because it was like no other film I had seen before. The pacing was impeccable, the story heartwrenching, the cinematography amazing and the acting was truly stunnin... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by smeagolsam at 15:46, 12 May 2006 | Report This Post


Firstly this movie is not as significant or important as some are suggesting. Its two men that fall in too a complicated love. big deal! The film itself is a decent watch and superbly acted, especially Heath Ledger who portrays a range of steadily progressive emotions. The beginning and end are the most profound and significant parts but the middle third is alittle rushed. A very good film but it is not flawless. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by 6thplace at 22:59, 10 May 2006 | Report This Post


Urgh

Nobody prepared me for the tent seen disgusting!Good acting bu rubbish storyline overall. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by alistairmclean81 at 10:13, 09 May 2006 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: adt100 L: doncopey1 Sensational acting of the highest and a touchy subject matter that will stay in the audiences mind for a long time, however its Brokeback wonderful music here that is the true winner beautifully constructed to show a beautiful love story and and a modern western image. However as pure entertainment its nothing special and the film itself isn't a classic as some people anticiapate. However a wonderful and beautifully made film that i'd strongly advise seeing! * *... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by doncopey1 at 09:02, 05 May 2006 | Report This Post


RE:

L: doncopey1 Sensational acting of the highest and a touchy subject matter that will stay in the audiences mind for a long time, however its Brokeback wonderful music here that is the true winner beautifully constructed to show a beautiful love story and and a modern western image. However as pure entertainment its nothing special and the film itself isn't a classic as some people anticiapate. However a wonderful and beautifully made film that i'd strongly advise seeing! * * * *. eing a... More

Posted by adt100 at 15:42, 04 May 2006 | Report This Post


Sensational acting of the highest and a touchy subject matter that will stay in the audiences mind for a long time, however its Brokeback wonderful music here that is the true winner beautifully constructed to show a beautiful love story and and a modern western image. However as pure entertainment its nothing special and the film itself isn't a classic as some people anticiapate. However a wonderful and beautifully made film that i'd strongly advise seeing! * * * *. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by doncopey1 at 13:05, 04 May 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Brokeback Mountain

it blew me away at the cinema and then blew me away again last monday when i got on dvd!  its my favorate film of the year so far and it will be hard to beat. everyone who i talk to about it say its about gays why would you want to see that but its not just about cowboys its so much more and it should be veiwed as a love story not a gay cowboy film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by whomas at 20:53, 01 May 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Brokeback Mountain

I enjoyed it myself. Bit melachony though. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by doctorolorinbats1975 at 19:20, 01 May 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Brokeback Mountain

Beautifully, filmed and so well made. Heath and Jake astounded me, i love both there films, but Brokeback was just pure pleasure to watch, and i thought it was just an amazing love story too, forget that its to guys, the love story is something that can happen to anyone. Superb!!!!!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mikioninja at 09:28, 01 May 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Brokeback Mountain

When I saw it at the cinema, I liked it and thought it was very good. But since seeing it for the second time, in the comfort of my 'non-baking hot cinema' room I adored it. It really struck how amazing Heath Ledger is, how amazing almost every scene is, and how amazing the cinematography is. It's a beautiful film which really digs deep into your soul and realises very powerful and upsetting emotions. ... More

Posted by Castor Troy at 00:14, 01 May 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Brokeback Mountain

I saw this again couple days ago. It's just too amazing... I was alone at a midday screening. It is just so intense (even if i had already seen it before) that couldn't help but cry. It's so bare and raw. Not forgetting the artistic value of the film. The second time reminded me just how it's not just a political film.... and just saying that takes part of it dissapear. It has to be seen as whole. I'm not gonna go in to details cause I've done that before... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jeanne at 19:10, 30 April 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Brokeback Mountain

I saw the film last night and I thought it was really good, The acting was brilliant! ... More

Posted by buffy at 17:07, 30 April 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Upsetting, fantastic, beatuiful and just well good!

well shot, and fine performances from all  except ledger, not to mention a brilliant turn by anna faris, but really just so narratively flat you feel a bit worn out. loads of sloppy sentiment too. just so much that feels so pointless, i felt a bit cheated leaving the cinema. ... More

Posted by billythehick at 15:55, 28 April 2006 | Report This Post


Upsetting, fantastic, beatuiful and just well good!

The first time I saw an advert for this film I thought it looked like the funnist thing that I have ever seen! Me and my mate went to go see it for a laugh, but fell in love with it after we saw it! It's an epic tale of forbidden love and will not only capture your heart but make you cry for like 4 hours after seeing it! Truly an all time great that will live on forever! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Empo at 14:39, 28 April 2006 | Report This Post


A great picture that will be remembered for many, many years to come.

Beautiful, emotional, haunting, tragic. Brokeback Mountain is a truly amazing piece of cinema that will surely go down as onw of the Hollywood classics. Everything is handled with such subtlety and deft hand by Ang Lee, the cinematography is breathtaking, the score melancholic yet beautiful, the performances powerful and stirring. This is a film that will stay with you, in your heart and in your head. It delivers a real gut punch and if by the end of it you are not deeply moved then you should s... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by adt100 at 11:35, 28 April 2006 | Report This Post


Something Lacking

I do feel as if Brokeback Mountain is a masterpiece and very well crafted film that deserved many accollades however when i saw it i felt tht there was something lacking, and this was the sheer deepness in the love between the two men and i felt the music needed to be used more often and to a more effective level to really bring out the passion, but apart from that, amazing direction and well put together ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Aamir at 17:22, 26 April 2006 | Report This Post


Best Picture scandal

I agree with the sentiments of anyone who loved this film, so rather than review it here are my thoughts on why it should have won Best Picture:   Crash - great film, fabulous performances, but just far too much of an 'issues' film. Every character (and there were too many to give any of them any depth) seemed to talk so constantly and histrionically about race that it just felt so unrealistic; a few more scenes with ordinary dialogue would have made those casually racist remarks seem ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Davechoc at 00:48, 19 April 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Desperatley sad and moving but hauntingly beautiful and unforgettable

I went to see Brokeback for a second time a few days ago and it hit me in exactly the way it did the first time. It is simply one of the most beautiful, powerful, heartbreaking films I have seen. The understated depiction of events is indeed a major plus. The score is pitch perfect, I love the way odd notes on the guitar seem to capture events, for example the happier strumming for the snow sledding or the slower, melodic strings which capture life on Brokeback through to the truly magical "The... More

Posted by Axel Foley at 20:02, 26 March 2006 | Report This Post


Desperatley sad and moving but hauntingly beautiful and unforgettable

Simply beautiful, tragic and emotional. Ang Lee and all the cast have come up trumps here. Its beautifully subtle and understated. In fact its this very understatement of the films underlying power that affects you the day after - there is no big sweeping Williams-like score, no Spielberg-like sentimentality and no typical love story cliches. The subject matter is handled with exceptional grace, you don't feel you're being manipulated but rather the unravelling story, the characters, the beauti... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jonno1980 at 21:44, 21 March 2006 | Report This Post


Such a great film, really heartbreaking and emotional, and one that i think people will be talking about for many years to come. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trekmatt at 12:41, 16 March 2006 | Report This Post


Great music, Solid acting deserves the accalim its got. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Naweed_1 at 12:08, 12 March 2006 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

I saw this last weekend. Loved it (Well the first bit in the tent was a little bit too graphic for me). It was so sad. The music was brilliant, so I'll probably buy the soundtrack. When I was watching it I ate so much popcorn, it made me feel knda sick. ... More

Posted by obsessive_chick at 22:48, 11 March 2006 | Report This Post


RE:

I must admit this film doesn't appeal to me - so I say sorry to the mases now. But I think you either love it or you hate it................ And I am affraid it is the latter...amp;:]] ... More

Posted by FBTurner at 20:26, 11 March 2006 | Report This Post


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