Anthony Minghella’s (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley) latest movie Cold Mountain is an adaptation of the Charles Frazier epic love story of sorts set in the backdrop of the beautiful Carolinas in the 1860s when America was at war with herself.
Wounded, tired and lovelorn hero Inman (Jude Law in a more subdued though no less energetic performance) deserts the army and heads home on foot, avoiding the enemy but more particularly, the dreaded Confederate Home Guard who have taken it upon themselves not only to rid the land of traitor deserters but pillage all good folk of any crop or animal. Seeking solace in his new love, Ada (Nicole Kidman), the prim and proper daughter of a preacher (Donald Sutherland), Inman’s determination drives him on to the final embrace.
Minghella takes his time to ease us into the story with a slow start, albeit beginning with a bang, deliberately allowing us time to get to know his characters and their situation through flashback. Once the story kicks in properly it builds to its inevitable climax with a confidant and assured pace. This is a classy film in every department.
Minghella paints a picture of a disheartened and hopeless land whose coldness is reflected only by the barren landscape surrounding the village also known as Cold Mountain. The battle scenes, notably the first segment are spectacularly staged – old fashioned panoramic style, with minimal special effects. This is all masterly photographed and scored to grand effect. One also cannot fault with the director for his compelling story-telling techniques (with layered flashbacks), which work well – primarily from his well-written supporting characters encountered by Inman during his journey.
Watching the cast’s performances is real joy
These are performed by a stellar international cast that includes Natalie Portman, Brendan Gleeson and the barely recognizable Philip Seymour Hoffman and Giovanni Ribisi. But Renee Zellweger steals the show as the tomboyish farm girl, Rudy, mumbling wise-cracks under her breath as if the day has no end.
All three of the principles handle their roles well, with none outshining another, although Zellweger was the only one to scoop the nod from the academy. The supporting cast members are also all uniformly excellent with some good turns from Natalie Portman and Ray Winston.
On the whole, when you watch Cold Mountain online it feels like an adult fairy-tale with a fair share of violence and the romance sometimes carried out a bit too far. The ending is lengthy yet necessary for proper closure but the best bits occur when Minghella displays his sense of cynicism. He likens the civil war to man-made rain, in which man will stand in it and shout “***censored***, it is raining!” and life to the parable of the bird, seed and ***censored***. Nevertheless, this full movie finally emerges as a well made ambitious work worthy of the Best Picture Oscar.
The deleted scenes are worth a look and were probably snipped for pacing reasons. The featurette is an above average ‘fluff piece’, if you are really interested in the making of the movie check out the excellent documentary – Climbing Cold Mountain. A solid set of extras that compliments the main feature well.
Well deserving of all the accolades and praise that was heaped upon it, Cold Mountain is a slow burn that builds to an emotionally satisfying climax. The movie gets the treatment it deserves.