Director: Gus Van Sant Language: English Runtime: 128 minutes Links: IMDB San Francisco city Supervisor Harvey Milk, who in 1977 became the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States, started off most of his speeches with a simple, yet convincing phrase. “My name is Harvey Milk and I am here to recruit you.” On the surface that statement may sound like he is trying to persuade someone who is considered straight to covert to his lifestyle, but after getting to know him in director Gus Van Sant's biopic “Milk,” that assumption couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, most of Milk's initiatives were a way for him to support the gay movement, but what I think this noble man was really all about was making sure every person in the world was treated fairly and like a human being. There's no denying homosexuality is still frowned upon by many people across the country, but “Milk” shows us things would be a lot worse today if Harvey Milk did not display the constant compassion and dedication so many others in his situation avoided at all costs. Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”) and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black's important and imperative film tells the story of Harvey Milk's rise from a bearded hippie to a national icon who encouraged all homosexuals hiding in the closet to be proud and come out to their loved ones, peers and friends. There are many reasons why one should praise Van Sant's “Milk,” but I don't see how the movie could be nearly as compelling if it was not for the flawless performance by Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn, who completely disappears into the role of Harvey Milk. Milk was known as a hero to many people, but Penn shows us a different side of the famous gay rights activist that many folks have probably never seen before. Milk will always be remembered for the numerous things he did on a political level, but Penn portrays him as an ordinary man who had a number of flaws but persistently fought hard for what he believed in. And Penn does such a convincing job of illustrating Milk's struggles and persistence that I could see even those who are completely against homosexuality feeling some sort of empathy for his situation and all the adversity he dealt with during his life on this planet. The film also benefits from some particularly strong performances from James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Alison Pill and Diego Luna, all of whom play either a gay activist or one of Milk's partners. However, Harvey's most complex relationship was with Dan White (the always remarkable Josh Brolin), an ostensibly straight member of the San Francisco board of supervisors. To go into more detail about this pair would ruin some of the movie's more suspenseful moments, but it's safe to say the two had their fair share of differences and often butted heads. The actors and actresses deserve a large amount of the credit for bringing “Milk” to life, but the authentic costumes and sets and Van Sant's decision to blend archival footage and real newscasts with the actual movie makes it feel like you hopped into the DeLorean with Doc Brown and traveled back to the 1970s. But while “Milk” may be about a man who fought for equal rights over 30 years ago, the material in the film is just as relevant today, and if you won't take my word for it go ask someone who fought against Proposition 8. Plus, I must admit I knew very little about Harvey Milk before going into the movie, and I think the younger generation who is also in my shoes could benefit from learning more about what this man has accomplished. Whether you are heterosexual, homosexual or somewhere in between, “Milk” is such an inspiring and powerful movie that you should drop everything you are doing right now and instantly head to the theaters. Seriously, what are you still doing here reading this review? Rating: 10 out of 10