(2005, 134 min)
Director: Ang Lee
Set against the extraordinary mountains of Wyoming, two ranch hands (Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger) fall in love in the summer of 1963 in this monumental, iconic film.
2005 Oscar® Winner: Best Director (Ang Lee), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score.
A film of uncompromising beauty and overpowering emotion, the achingly poignant Brokeback Mountain is both an artistic triumph and a groundbreaking achievement in telling the story of two cowboys and their passionate love affair over two decades. Graced with two magnificent portrayals by Ledger and Gyllenhaal, this heartbreaking western based on the short story by Annie Proulx and brilliantly adapted by McMurtry and Ossana transcends labels, stereotype and notion to create, in the skillful hands of director Lee, a romance and masterwork for the ages.
Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) first meet in 1963 in a small, impoverished Wyoming town as they prepare for summer jobs as ranch hands that will take them to the gorgeous, isolated hills of Brokeback Mountain. It is on this lovely mountainside that the quiet Ennis and amiable Jack build a tentative bond that one cold night becomes sexual, an act they both insist is one-time only, for neither is "queer." However, as the two spend more time alone, they soon fall in love, even if neither is initially prepared for such an emotion. Forced to go their own way when the job is done, each man heads home to start life anew. After settling down, marrying and starting a family, they reunite several years later, returning to Brokeback Mountain to rekindle their love at the only place that allows them the freedom to truly be themselves. Though the periodic meetings are not enough for either, Ennis knows firsthand the realities of their time and place. It is a heartache that must be beared, no matter what, and Ledger is magnificent as he conveys this ache in Ennis' every word, movement and thought.
It's a revelatory performance that is matched by Gyllenhaal's sometimes anguished lover, who knows but can't accept that his passion will never be fully realized. The two actors never fail in their commitment to character, and display such emotional honesty on the screen that Ennis and Jack's imposed separation is more than the tragedy of social injustice, it is the tragic loss of true romantic love. That is at the heart of the film, and which makes Brokeback Mountain universal in its theme and singular in its accomplishment; it's a haunting, unforgettable affair that is at once one of the most romantic and one of the best romances that American cinema has seen.
Winner of 3 Academy Awards, including Best Director, Adapted Screenplay and Score. Crash won Best Picture, however. The Academy got it dead wrong as Brokeback Mountain was the Best Picture of 2005. It's a sad irony that Brokeback addresses the aftereffects of homophobia and was a victim of it in the Best Picture category.
-- David Bleiler