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:: Milk

Gus Van Sant has made some brilliant films over the years; ‘Elephant’, ‘Good Will Hunting’ and ‘Last Days’ spring straight to mind; so to say that ‘Milk’ is Van Sant’s best work to date is a big statement to make, it is also a very true one.

‘Milk’ is a biographical film that explores the political career of California’s first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn). This powerful film explores how his political career affected his personal relationships with partners, Scott Smith (James Franco) and Jack Lira (Diego Luna), his relationships with his political allies/enemies, Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber) and Dan White (Josh Brolin). However the most interesting side to ‘Milk’ is how Harvey surrounded himself with people who believed in him, people like Cleve Jones (Emilie Hirsch) and Anne Kronenberg (Alison Pill), both who are people interesting enough to hopefully have a film made about them one day.

Van Sant steers away from his slow-alternative style of film making that we have seen with his recent films and returns to the gritty dramatic style that found him success with films such as ‘Good Will Hunting’. Having said that Van Sant still tries some experimental shots in ‘Milk’ and pulls them off with stunning results. One shot that uses the reflection of a whistle will stick with any filmmaker for a long after watching the film. The inclusion of some archival footage throughout ‘Milk’ is also a wise choice as it reminds the audience that this was in fact a true story and not just another tale penned by a Hollywood scribe.

Aside from Van Sant’s genius the other main factor to making this film great was some excellent performances by some of the best actors going around. Sean Penn shines as Harvey Milk, don’t be surprised if he walks away with an Oscar for this performance as this is his best performance since ‘I Am Sam’. Emile Hirsch is also memorable as Cleve Jones; a challenging role in itself, while James Franco shows just how good he can be when he is given a role with a bit of bite. His portrayal of Harvey’s partner is Scott is one of the performances of the year and shows that Franco is not ‘just-another’ actor and helps him break away from that ‘Spiderman-baddie’ stereotype.

‘Milk’ is a sensational film full of love and compassion that will leave any film lover absolutely breathless. Penn puts in the performance of his life while Van Sant proves that Hollywood still has the right recipe to make a ‘great’ film. One of the films of the year.