Bang bang, the boys fight it out – often for the hand of a pretty lady, or to protect her fair charms. Cowboy films had love interest, but rarely convincing love or romance. That was the stuff of women’s pictures.
The Western dramatized a potent civilizing myth, but no-one makes these films anymore – we’ve moved on. *Brokeback Mountain* looks like a Western – big wide landscape, guys with rifles and Stetson hats riding on horses. But it turns the mainstream Western inside out and tells a story Hollywood has never told before.
Jack is gay, he needs a relationship with a man. Ennis doesn’t, he has no sexual desires for other men. He simply falls in love with Jack. Their feelings are universal, as old as humanity, and their love is beautifully and convincingly told. Their story, though, is a tragic one – simply, when all is said and done, because of anti-gay prejudice.
Heath Ledger brilliantly plays the instinctual Ennis, saying very little but conveying deep-felt emotion and fear. The script and direction are subtle, the men’s family and social circumstances nicely established. This is a moving resonant film, Hollywood’s best for years.