BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Director Ang Lee presents this touching tale of two cowpokes who fall in love during the summer of 1963 while watching sheep up in Wyoming's Brokeback Mountain. Ennis (Heath Ledger), a naive rancher, and bronco rodeo rider Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) eventually leave their relationship behind and get married to women, but meet up each successive year to "go fishing." Their tentative, sadly doomed romance -- backlit by gorgeous pastoral visuals care of cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and based on Annie Proulx's acclaimed short story -- really creeps up on you. In the end it rips your heart right out of your chest. Michelle Williams (as Ennis's wife, a savvy woman who's on to her husband's secret love) and Jake Gyllenhaal (who knew he was a bottom?) are both excellent. But Heath Ledger is just astonishing. With his downcast eyes and strangled voice, he's a walking ball of repression. He gives a revelatory performance -- one of those rare instances when an actor's instincts are so on the money that they transform the role into something legendary.