I felt that Milk is a slightly staid film, closer to the middle-of-the-road side of Gus van Sant's film-making persona, the bland side that made his treacly Sean Connery film Finding Forrester.
Once in a while, a movie arrives at such a perfect moment, its message and meaning so finely tuned to the current zeitgeist, that it seems less a cinematic event than a cosmic convergence, willed into being by a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of the stars.
Somehow, Milk implants hope in those who've lost it. Somehow, Penn plays him as a feisty charmer so winning and lifelike that you'll regard him as a friend before it's over.
Sean Penn gives a meticulously detailed performance as the cagey and charismatic pol, but credit should also go to Dustin Lance Black, whose script squarely locates Milk at the center of his community, his city, and his cause.