- Director:Gus Van Sant
- Cast:Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Sean Penn
- Release Date:January 29, 2009
- Running time:128 minutes
- Film Worth:$15.50
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
“…an unmissable film…”
Harvey Bernard Milk was the first openly gay official elected to serve the people of San Francisco. In 1978, the charismatic leader was assassinated in office. Gus Van Sant's riveting biopic introduces Milk (Sean Penn) hours before his 40th birthday, when he picks up a man on the New York subway. It's the dawn of a new decade, and the disaffected pair joins a gay Diaspora bound for California. Harvey and Scott (James Franco) open a camera shop that soon becomes the focal and flash point for gay civil rights in the seventies. Despite the euphoria, they were dangerous times. We learn this from Milk, who is recording his own obituary at a kitchen table in the film's opening moments.
It is the touchstone of Van Sant's compelling narrative that traces Milk's rise from likeable nobody to popular somebody. The director skillfully merges the best of both his worlds: the commercial sensibility of Good Will Hunting and the experimental textures of Elephant. Working from a well-nourished screenplay, Van Sant loads the film with dramatised and archival footage that compound to deliver key moments in the activist's life with surprising depth and intimacy. This is classical filmmaking with a gutsy twist that forces Milk to rise well above the biopic genre.
Penn sits in the middle, his cogent performance dominating without unbalancing an exceptional ensemble that includes Franco, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna (as Milk's loopy lover), and Josh Brolin as a disaffected colleague swept along by the unforgiving currents of radical change. They deliver significant elements of Milk's highly charged and highly emotional life that is part love story, part history lesson, part thriller - locating Harvey's assassin forms a guilty pleasure. Quite simply, Milk is an unmissable film about a man who energised a movement.