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There is also a sense about the movie of material stretched too thin, a slow, uneventful, time-biding start, working up stealthily to the moment of maximal male bonding, and then a straightforward, chronological, but time-skipping follow-through. The greater detail and delay on screen, as against the page, do not equate to greater credibility. One credible detail: the horseplay that turns rough on the eve of their first parting, the eloquent expression of nonverbal types. Contrastingly, their first reunion, a clinch of sumo-wrestler ferocity, right under the nose of one of the wives, is miles from credible. Jake Gyllenhaal, with his choirboyish pretty face and lofty voice, is the more acceptably typecast of the two. But Heath Ledger, lowering his voice to a Scott Glenn register, inside a clamped jaw, and suppressing his native Aussie accent, conveys the more poignant image of inhibition and concealment. Both actors look good in their jeans, in their hats, on their horses, and with their Marlboro Man smokes. And the voluptuous landscape is lovingly photographed. Director Ang Lee already did a lot of that in Ride with the Devil, and did it, at the time, with more impact of surprise and revelation. (Ang Lee? Man of action?) What's new here feels frankly inevitable, not at all revelatory; and the director of The Wedding Banquet, Sense and Sensibility, and The Ice Storm seems an unsurprising man for the job.

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