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on January 31, 2004
"Cold Mountains", one of the best films of the year (it's a crime it wasn't nominated for Best Picture), is beautifully crafted, stirring, poetic tale of love, loss, and the will to survive. Directed and adapted to the screen by the wonderful Anthony Minghella and boasting a stunning cast of Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi, Jack White, Brendan Gleeson, and Donald Sutherland, this film is truly a force to be reckoned with.
"Cold Mountain" tells the story of Inman (Law), a carpenter working in Cold Mountain, North Carolina in 1861 when the alluring, elegant, and well-educated Ada (Kidman) and her father, Reverend Monroe (Sutherland), move to the Blue Mountains from the city. Inman and Ada, in true Hollywood fashion, are instantly taken by each other and engage in restrained flirtation, Ada's preacher father and their different social classes being the bulwark from romance. Soon the Civil War begins and the entire young male population of Cold Mountain departs in eager anticipation of glorious battle. Inman and Ada engage in one fleeting, hungry kiss before he rushes off to join the departing procession.
During battle, Inman is wounded and, after reading Ada's numerous earnest letters imploring him to return to her, deserts the Confederate army and embarks upon an Odyssey-like journey back home to his true love. Meanwhile, Ada's father has died, leaving her helpless and alone on their 300 acre farm. Soon Ruby (Zellweger) arrives and offers Ada her services in exchange for food and shelter. Realizing that she simply cannot manage on her own, Ada agrees. The rest of this spellbinding film flashes back and forth between Ada, being "all that keeps Inman from sliding into some dark place" and Inman, being Ada's "last thread of courage". Though these two souls barely know each other, they both remarkably become the single thing in each others world worth living for, worth fighting for.
When boiled down to it, "Cold Mountain" is simply a beautiful testament of the human soul's fierce will to survive and, as corny as it sounds, the power of love. If it weren't for their love, neither Ada nor Inman would have found the will and courage to survive after their lives had been shattered by the brutalities of war.
The seamlessly intertwined music plays such a large emotional role in this film. From Gabriel Yard's haunting score to Alison Krauss' tender songs, the music in this films helps to create an absorbing atmosphere that sucks you right into the Civil War. In addition, John Seale's breathtaking cinematography complete with sweeping views of the snow-encrusted Blue Mountains makes this a film you simply must see on the big screen.
This has been a very difficult review for me to write. Upon first seeing "Cold Mountain", I was pleased with the film, but definitely not as taken with it as I soon came to be. That all changed in the weeks following. I simply cannot get this film out of my head. The hope, the sacrifices, the pain, the loss, the love. It really sticks with you. It's hard to put my feelings into words and I sincerely hope that this review has given you the incentive to go see this film, and by doing so, embark upon an unforgettable journey.
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HALL OF FAMEon January 6, 2004
"Cold Mountain," directed by Anthony Minghella, stars Jude Law as Inman, a Confederate soldier during the U.S. Civil War, and Nicole Kidman as Ada, the minister's daughter he loves and longs for when he leaves to fight. Renee Zellweger costars as Ruby, a feisty farmhand who works with Ada on the homefront.
This film is a period piece that has a true epic sweep, yet never loses an intimate connection with the main characters. The production design is full of fascinating and thoughtful details that make the film a joy to watch. But it's also often harrowing and graphically violent--Minghella does not flinch at exploring the injustice and brutality of humankind towards itself.
The performances are all superb. After having distinguished himself in a number of noteworthy supporting roles, Law really proves himself a great leading man here. Kidman brings both delicacy and steel to her role--a southern belle faced with daunting wartime challenges. Zellweger delivers a rich, earthy, zesty performance; she is a perfect foil for Kidman and their characters' relationship is one of the great highlights of the film. The three main actors are superbly supported by the rest of the cast.
"Cold Mountain" is often quite grim and brutal, but is leavened by earthy humor and irony. Ultimately I found the film to be life-affirming. It's a love story and a war story, but regardless of genre it's a superbly crafted and genuinely moving film.
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on January 18, 2004
Cold Mountain is a beautiful movie set during the American Civil War. A North Carolina town of Cold Mountain has sent it's beloved sons to war leaving behind Mothers and Lovers. Our two main characters are Ada (Nicole Kidman) and Inman (Jude Law) two Cold Mountain residents dedicated to there reunion after the war, but the war drags on and there correspondence is the only thing that unites them in a terrible time of American History.
The movie tells of Inman's journey back to Ada and the parrallel story of Ada trying to survive on her fathers farm. Both characters take a journey in spirit and determination to survive the horror that has become there existance during the war.
I loved the intertwining of music and drama in this movie. Anthony Mingella did, as expected, an excellent job etching the powerful feelings of hope and dismay with haunting music written by Sting and performed by the clear voice of blue grasses own Alison Krauss. I am from North Carolina am familiar with the native music of the area and thought the music in the movie very similar and so wonderful.
Although, this is a Love Story more than a movie of the American Civil War it stirred the feeling of my Southern Roots. The movie did not contemplate the reasons for the Civil War but it was a vehicle for ours lovers seperation. I found the depiction of the Petersburg battle flawed not entirely accurate to history but then again the war is not the focus in the movie.
I was in aw of the cinemontography of this movie, magnificent. A gorgeous movie that needs to be seen.
Perhaps I am biased, since I am a North Carolinian, but I thought this movie excellent, bittersweet, wonderfully acted, and crafted by the best in the movie business today. I would recommend this movie.
I was so touched by the Lovers' correspondence between each other the quiet love between two people spelled out in words. You hear Ada reading her letters to Inman on his journey back to her and your heart aches for the both of them......sigh.
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on January 10, 2004
"Cold Mountain," Anthony Minghella's film of Charles Frazier's novel, is a mournful, beautiful and occasionally profound film about the futility of war, the persistence of love and the desperate attempts of people to survive in wartime. The quiet, delicately nuanced performances of Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles are deeply moving, and Renee Zellweger brings much-needed comic relief as Ruby, a plain-spoken farm worker. The film's episodic structure may distract some viewers, but the vignettes are extremely powerful per se, and they allow for some wonderful supporting performances--by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eileen Atkins, Kathy Baker, Donald Sutherland, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi, Lucas Black, Brendan Gleeson, Ray Winstone, Jack White, Ethan Suplee and others--to be placed strategically in the movie like jewels in a crown. "Cold Mountain" makes the sad but undeniable point that at times of national tragedy, all the survivors can do is pick up the pieces, rebuild their lives as best they can, and find joy wherever they can. With fine performances, excellent music (by Sting, Jack White and others), and exquisite photography by John Seale, "Cold Mountain" lingers in our minds and hearts long after the closing credits roll.
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on January 6, 2004
As a Civil War buff, I am glad to see someone doing their homework at the seige of Petersburg. The crater turned out to be a disaster for the Union army and was very accurately depicted in Cold Mountain, right down to Confederate soldiers throwing their "bayonet-fixed" muskets like spears into the mass of humanity. This scene is bloody, but not as much so as the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan.
But anyway, good acting with a star-studded cast. Be warned, the movie will likely be easier to follow if you have read the book first. There are plenty of flashbacks, etc., especially in the first half of the movie, and the movie may appear to "jump around" a bit unless you're already familiar with the book. So read the book, or see the movie twice. There are about a half-dozen major scenes where the movie diverges from the book, some for time, some for dramatic affect. These are tolerable, except the scene involving Teague's homeguard band with the Swangers was not at all in the book (again, great for dramatics though). Renee Zellweger as Ruby is fantastic. Veasey (Philip Seymour Hoffman) also has some great one-liners. Georgia Boy (Jack White) is also very good (his name turned about to be Reid at the end of the book). Having not read the cast beforehand, I was surprised to see Natalie Portman (Queen Amadala) as Sara. I thought Ray Winstone did an excellent job as the ruthless Teague, who in true life was the leader of a homeguard band in the NC mountains. I wish the movie would have brought out one of his main companions better - the bizarre, blond-headed boy (named Birch in the book.) Although of fighting age in the movie, I got the impression in the book that Birch was too young to be a soldier, barely older than a drummer boy. The crew did an excellent job in casting Ethan Suplee (Pangle) for the movie - just like my mind pictured him in the book. Also, I did think the movie (and the book) brought out the overall character of the "very-rural" south during the Civil War. Guerilla fighting, locals not trusting their own homeguard, the unimaginable hardships, even the uneducated status of many people back then. One last thing that I would have loved to see in the movie which would have followed the book exactly, would be a scene involving Jude Law (Inman) pistol whipping Giovanni Ribisi (Junior) within an inch of his life. If you haven't seen the movie - I won't give away why, but you'll see why. Little revenge factor there.
As a sidenote, as Ada, Ruby and Sally Swanger were walking home one night, Ada accurately pointed out Orion, Gemini and Canis Major in close proximity to each other as they properly are. Again, someone did their homework. If you like action, some romance, some Civil War gore, this movie is for you.
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on March 9, 2006
I am a huge fan of Anthony Mingella's movies, I loved The Talented Mr. Riply and I liked The English Patient, though it was hella long, but this film was harder to like. The story is a good one and the book by Frazier is very good, but in its movie form it seems really depressing. I thought Kidman was very good and Zellweger was great, but I really did not like Law as Inman, he just did not register, it was hard to understand why Kidman longed for him so. The movie is extremely violent, in a Deliverance sort of way, the violence is real and disturbing, one scene in particular is just retching to watch, if you see this film you will know exactly what I am refering to, overall the quality of the film is very good and the cinematography is outstanding, it amazing how much Romania looks like North Carolina, I do recommend this film, but be forewarned it is depressing and hard to watch at times....enjoy.
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The characters in this movie spend a great deal of time searching for food. And proclaiming that they are hungry. Which in some respects was indicative of the desperate times they lived in. It also involves some off-shoots of the digestive process, namely the defrocked preacher suffering acute constipation and a member of the traveling troubadours led by Renée Zellweger's dad eating some less than digestible wild game and later summoning Ralph... There are alot of hungry people in this movie.

There are two concurrent levels of the story. One involves Jude Law trying to find his way back from the horrors of the Civil War to Nicole Kidman. The other is Nicole Kidman wondering if Law will make it back to her. In his travels, Law talks to those he encounters about his quest to return to Kidman.

One person Law talks to about this is an elderly woman living in a gypsy-style setting who temporarily takes him in. She is somewhat unique as she proclaims that everything she needs can be derived from a goat...interesting concept. In one scene, he talks at length about finding his way back home. She sits and listens and looks as if she might nod off. Eventually, she gives him something to sleep... or to end his discussion about going home before she nods off.

Throughout the movie, Kidman is harassed by the Home Guard, a motley collection of "stay-at homers" who travel the countryside looking for Confederate deserters and generally making a nuisance of themselves. A younger member of the Home Guard bears a striking resemblance to a young Edgar Winter. As an alternate ending, instead of the Winter look-a-like plugging our hero and dashing Kidman's hopes for a permanent reunion, he could have put down his guns and hooked up with Zellweger's dad's musical group and an earlier version of the classic instrumental "Frankenstein" might of been born a la southern style.

A couple of semi-noticeable gaffes in this film...In one, Law takes an early-appearing, copper plate likeness of Kidman to carry off to war with him and places it in an envelope with a self-stick adhesive flap similiar to what you get your dough back from at a bank drive-through window.

In another, Kidman's father, Donald Sutherland passes away and she opts to wear his large, oversize black coat in rememberance. As the movie progresses to the final scenes, the oversize, ill-fitting coat she is wearing is gradually and magically transformed into a trim-sized, finely tailored, cut close at the waist wrap that looks right off the rack at Bloomingdale's.

In the final scene, everyone who has survived the war, hunger, tainted meat and the Home Guard or bothered to stick around until the end of the movie are outside sitting around a table...eating. Like I said, there are alot of hungry people in this movie...
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on August 14, 2004
I saw COLD MOUNTAIN in the theater without having read any professional critics' reviews. I decided to go into this possible Oscar contender with as open a mind as possible. The result, alas, was a measure of disappointment.

It certainly wasn't too long and boring, as a lot of people have said of THE ENGLISH PATIENT. No, the problem with this movie is that its dramatic core seems to be missing. Okay, the story is how wounded Civil War soldier Inman (Jude Law) wants to get back to his love Ada (Nicole Kidman), but has to go through an ODYSSEY-type set of adventures to do so. Except, in the scenes set before Inman goes off to war, we never get a sense of real romantic chemistry between these two (although Law and Kidman certainly try to pull it off): neither when they first meet, nor when Inman departs from Ada. Their initial meeting scenes are much too brief (truncated, perhaps?), and if we don't believe the central romance at its heart, we surely don't believe in Inman's dogged determination to get back to a love that he hardly even knows. Throughout the central passages of the film, I never felt anything truly at stake throughout Inman's journey, and for me that is a real letdown.

If the film is pretty much dead at its dramatic center, at least its edges are full of life. I don't know if Renee Zellweger deserved her Oscar for THIS role as a no-nonsense mountain girl that stays with Ada---it's not a great role, and hardly an acting stretch for her---but she still livens up the film considerably by her sheer personality when she arrives on the scene. Her scenes with her father, especially, are a hoot---in a good way. She is certainly fun to watch, even if it's debatable whether she's really necessary in the film (but then, I can't say I've read Charles Frazier's book). Indeed, some of the characters Inman meets along his quest are interesting: some comic (Philip Seymour Hoffman's Reverend Veasey), some poignant (Natalie Portman's lonely single mother Sara). And the film is, once again, handsomely well-mounted by Minghella and gloriously shot by cinematographer John Seale, esp. in the impressive opening battle scene (with one of the best explosion shots I've ever seen) and the shots of snowy mountain peaks at the end.

All in all, COLD MOUNTAIN is the classic case of a movie that has some very good parts which simply do not add up to a satisfying whole. It has great individual moments, but the central romance is thin and underdramatized (although Minghella certainly tries to make up for the missing passion at the beginning when Ada and Inman meet again at the end), and thus the glue that would sew together the disparate parts simply isn't there. One of Minghella's previous films, THE ENGLISH PATIENT---which won a ton of Oscars in 1996---is a much better film with a vastly more coherent story and convincing central romance than. You could do much worse than COLD MOUNTAIN, but you could also do much better.
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on August 18, 2015
This wonderfully well-made film earned 7 Academy Award nominations, and Reneé Zellweger won the award for best supporting actress, with a very impressive performance as a rough pioneer survivor, that showed her versatility. Director Anthony Minghella deserves credit for the overall quality of the acting, which included one of Nicole Kidman's best performances, in addition to the Best Actor award for Jude Law.

I studied the film primarily to see the work of editor Walter Murch. The excellent cinematography of John Seale helped Murch made this a beautiful film, and to tell the story of the battle at the beginning very well through pictures.

The film is a romance - the story of a refined woman who learns to be tough. An example of a decent story adapted to make a great film. If the ending is a bit clipped, the excellence of the main body of the film makes up for it.
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on June 8, 2005
This movie exists purely in parts. It doesn't quite work for me as a whole (it felt REALLY long, gratuitous sex, a slow opening, and a storyline that I cared less and less about as the movie went on), but I enjoyed it. It is good but not great. But this movie is absolutely heartbreaking in some scenes, which moved me completely to tears.

Basically, the movie is about a confederate soldier Inman (Jude Law) who is tired of fighting in a war he doesn't believe in. He decides to return home to his love, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), but Inman is hunted by the North ("yankees") and the South (who are killing deserters of war) alike. Of Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, it can be said that they are well-cast in their roles as Ada and Inman. They do have some chemistry and there are some beautiful scenes between them, and their performances are good, but not great. This is not intended as a criticism because I enjoyed their work (I thought they captured anguish and love.

I haven't read the book so I'm not entirely sure what I am saying is fair, but here are my criticisms: one, a really slow opening. It seemed to take an hour for Inman to finally start returning home to Ida. I thought the opening war scene was not very well done; too much shock value and too little emphasis on human emotions, brutality of war, etc. Two, gratuitous sex. There is just one bizarre sequence in the movie (is it in the book? I don't know...) where Inman and some corrupt priest end up in a brothel house. It's very disturbing and gratuitous. I find it rather unnecessary. (The love scenes between Inman and Ada are rather graphic but I can understand it since they are deeply in love and "Cold Mountain" is an intense love story.) This is definitely not a movie to take little kids to.

Now that I've gotten all my criticism out of the way, let me say that I also have a lot of praise for this movie. I said the movie exists entirely in parts and there are several, particularly the ones where the Southern men are hunting down Confederate soldiers who have deserted the war. There is one scene about a husband and wife hiding their two young boys in their home. There is another about two men playing instruments to the Southern men, while knowing they will be shot shortly after. These scenes are very beautiful.

I think high praise goes to Renee Zellweger for her funny, touching, and strong portrayal of Ruby, the woman that comes to help Ada on the farm. Zellweger is uproariously funny and coarse; she steals every single scene she's in. And she is also responsible for one of the more moving moments in the film, when she finds her badly wounded father in the snow, bleeding from a gunshot wound. But the gem of this movie is, without a doubt, Natalie Portman as a widowed mother with a young child. Portman's two short scenes are my favorite in the movie. I don't want to spoil this one for you but Portman's touching and memorable performance (in only 10 minutes of film) will bring you to tears. It's a very powerful moment...Although "Cold Mountain" has a lot of these moments, they don't quite work together as a whole. Still, it is an enjoyable effort and well worth the price of admission. 3.5/5
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