Brokeback Mountain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A few minor deficits occurred but nothing terrible marred the presentation.
A little softness crept in at times. Some of this stemmed from the mild edge enhancement I noticed through the film. Most of the movie looked crisp and well-defined, but I thought things became a bit fuzzy on occasion. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, though, and no signs of source flaws occurred
Given its restrained tone, the movie’s palette followed suit. The outdoors settings boasted lush greens and looked very good, but much of the rest of the film went with blander hues. In any case, the colors were consistently accurate and decisive. Blacks appeared deep and dark, but shadows could be a little heavy.
Actually, the low-light shots usually seemed fine, but a few images were awfully dense. The prime culprit came from the scene in which Jack and Ennis first did the deed. I suspected this shot was intentionally shot, but it appeared dimmer than expected – and tougher to discern than I remembered from the theatrical showing I saw. In any case, the visuals of Brokeback didn’t excel but they were more than satisfactory.
To my moderate surprise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Brokeback Mountain proved rather expansive. The outdoors shots opened up matters with a nice sense of environment, and the occasional louder element filled out the speakers well. From rodeo sequences to storms to other pieces, the mix broadened nicely and used all five speakers to very good effect.
Audio quality always seemed solid. Music was lush and full, while effects came across as accurate and dynamic. Most of the movie remained restrained, but the occasional louder piece was clean and concise. Speech appeared natural and crisp. This was a very solid soundtrack.
Given the prominence of Brokeback, the DVD’s roster of extras seems lackluster. These come from four featurettes. On Being a Cowboy runs five minutes, 44 seconds and mixes movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from stunt coordinator Kirk Jarrett, animal wrangler TJ Bews, executive producer/screenwriter Diana Ossana, wrangler Don Gillespie, director Ang Lee and actors Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. The show looks at the actors’ training to play the cowboy parts of the film. This short piece offers a decent examination of how the participants went through “cowboy camp”.
We focus on the director in Directing from the Heart: Ang Lee. The seven-minute and 27-second show includes remarks from Lee, Ledger, Hathaway, Gyllenhaal, Ossana, executive producer Michael Costigan, producer James Schamus, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, costume designer Marit Allen, and actors Anna Faris, Randy Quaid, and Linda Cardellini.
The program reflects Lee’s directorial style and his work, why Lee took on the flick, the movie’s cinematography and visual elements, and how the director works with the cast. Occasional nuggets of useful material emerge here, but “Heart” mostly acts as a puff piece to tout Lee’s skills. We don’t get much meat in this fluffy program.
Next we find the 10-minute and 54-second From Script to Screen: Interviews with Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. As expected, this presents notes from writers Ossana and McMurtry as well as Schamus, Quaid, Lee, Hathaway. Cardellini, Ledger, Costigan, and Gyllenhaal. The piece looks at Annie Proulx’s original story and its adaptation as well as troubles bringing it to the screen. We get details about the expansion of the short article into a feature-length film and learn what the writers wanted to accomplish. Though we get a little too much happy talk, they offer nice insight into their work and thought processes in this informative featurette.
For the final featurette, we locate Sharing the Story: The Making of Brokeback Mountain. In this 20-minute and 48-second piece, we get comments from Lee, Ledger, Gyllenhaal, Hathaway, Schamus, Cardellini, Ossana, McMurtry, production designer Judy Becker, composer Gustavo Santaolalla, and actor Michelle Williams.
After a basic recap of story and characters, “Sharing” looks at the short story, its adaptation, and move to the screen, casting, cowboy camp, locations, Lee’s work with the actors and their interactions, animals, shooting the love scenes, and reactions to the movie. Most of the information here already appears in the other featurettes, so don’t expect to learn much. “Sharing” emphasizes fluff since it exists to promote the film. It’s not very interesting.
The DVD opens with three Previews. We get ads for Pride and Prejudice, On a Clear Day and Something New. No trailer for Brokeback appears on the DVD.
Brokeback Mountain inspired passionate debate due to its themes, but the movie itself seemed strangely unaffecting. Though it does everything right on the surface, it never quite connects. The DVD offers reasonably good picture and audio along with some ordinary extras. I think Brokeback merits a look but I don’t feel it stands as a great film.