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Anthony Mingheller's astounding film cleverly sweeps the audience into
horrors of war at its beginning. He then introduces his two principle
characters who would gradually move the audience into their world wrought
war and hardship. We watch as the characters begin to unravel their
tortures and their need to subdue their isolation to face their regrets
hope for the future. This is an absolutely fabulous movie that portrays
stunning performances of its stellar cast of actors and the overwhelming
landscapes that are kept in sync with their events and moods. Observe
stages of emotional changes in the characters. So amazingly and
magnificently captured at different camera angles, from scene to scene
against the cold, mountainous countryside!
This film isn't throwing off longwinded dialogue and lengthy physical encounters between Jude Law's Inman and Nicole Kidman's Ada to reveal the meeting of two souls searching for a meaningful existence. Yep, it's that brief and silent stare of Inman as he confronts the graciously low-keyed, prim and proper Ada that explicitly puts their sensory awareness of each other so powerfully on screen. As the events flow, I was completely mesmerized by the Inman character watching him transcend to his sense of isolation and his developing disillusion with his world. On the other hand, I couldn't take my eyes off the immaculately well-bred and gorgeous Ada as she succumbs into a scrawny hapless damsel in complete distress. It's fascinating to watch the couple adapt to situations beyond their control and to study the emotional and behavioral attitudes of two human beings altering at such opposing magnitude as a result of one war. Observe how the once popular Inman slips into desolation in the battlefield, becoming even more tormented from his world as he meets up with some very strange characters. Will he ever find solace with these characters, or with Ada at the end? Will Ada, while feeling alienated from her new abode, at the beginning of the film and with the death of her father, be able to battle her insecurity to become spiritually enlightened and physically capable with the help of her new acquaintances? Is she able to embraces what the farmland has to offer her? And will Inman be capable of escaping what the gruesome battlefield has come to mean to him? This film lays out an enormous ground for the examination of the effects a war on different individuals.
The film continues to remind the audience that Ada and Inman are bound together by their haunting memories of one another. That, indeed, is beautifully captured by the expressions on Law and Kidman's faces. The symbolisms, throughout the film, are plentiful and brilliantly ascribed, allowing the audience to join the dots to the destinies of the couple. Even crows, clearly suggesting doom and destruction, never fail to demonstrate the dark instincts that trouble a man's soul. And those women Inman meets in his journey seem to trigger the expectation of the audience to see him drawing closer to the woman he loves and to home. Even these characters, encountered by Inman, provide a picture of how different people react to the war. But will war ultimately bring peace and safety to its protagonists? This film is a masterpiece that will provide much food for thought.
Renee Zwellweger is phenomenal in her boisterously loud 'Ruby' role. She brings another aspect of the American woman that's so different in breeding from Kidman's Ada. Both are educated in their different cultural way of life. What can Ada learn from Ruby, the frontier woman who sees the 'hands and knees' toiling as the only way of survival in her community? Zwellweger provides the comic relief that's much needed for this powerfully intense film. She's superb in her role as the beacon of strength and hope for injecting a meaningful existence of living. Unlike the soldiers or the hypocritical Home Guard authorities that use guns to destroy their enemies, Ruby uses her hands-on skills to beat the odds of survival. It's uncannily delightful to watch her interacting with Kidman's character. She, Law and Kidman are definitely worthy of being recipients of the Oscar statuettes. They exhibit their superb non-stop performing talents in this film with their onscreen appearances. The Q&A session with Brendon Gleeson (who plays Ruby's father), has prompted me to want to go see this movie again - to watch closely how the strength of the film's womenfolk can make a difference to the human beings' survival instincts. I want to study again how hellish wars are for destroying and crippling, not only the physical, but the mental aspects of the masculine race. And Gleeson does drive home an interesting question: When these mountain folks `volunteer' to fight a war, how come they should be penalized as deserters if they were to decide to opt out of it?
This film is a MUST-SEE. It's beautifully crafted, assembled, and absolutely mesmerizing in all aspects of filmmaking techniques and style. The music score and soundtracks are so appropriate locked into the events and the moods of the characters. And the film's title? It does project its allegorical appeal.
'War movie' is a Hollywood genre that has been done and redone so many
times that clichéd dialogue, rehashed plot and over-the-top action
sequences seem unavoidable for any conflict dealing with large-scale
combat. Once in a while, however, a war movie comes along that goes
against the grain and brings a truly original and compelling story to
life on the silver screen. The Civil War-era "Cold Mountain," starring
Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renée Zellweger is such a film.
Then again, calling Cold Mountain" a war movie is not entirely accurate. True enough, the film opens with a (quite literally) quick-and-dirty battle sequence that puts "Glory" director Edward Zwick shame. However, "Cold Mountain" is not so much about the Civil War itself as it is about the period and the people of the times. The story centers around disgruntled Confederate soldier Inman, played by Jude Law, who becomes disgusted with the gruesome war and homesick for the beautiful hamlet of Cold Mountain, North Carolina and the equally beautiful southern belle he left behind, Ada Monroe, played by Nicole Kidman. At first glance, this setup appears formulaic as the romantic interest back home gives the audience enough sympathy to root for the reluctant soldier's tribulations on the battlefield. Indeed, the earlier segments of the film are relatively unimpressive and even somewhat contrived.
"Cold Mountain" soon takes a drastic turn, though, as the intrepid hero Inman turns out to be a deserter (incidentally saving the audience from the potentially confusing scenario of wanting to root for the Confederates) and begins a long odyssey homeward. Meanwhile, back at the farm, Ada's cultured ways prove of little use in the fields; soon she is transformed into something of a wilderbeast. Coming to Ada's rescue is the course, tough-as-nails Ruby Thewes, played by Renée Zellweger, who helps Ada put the farm back together and, perhaps more importantly, cope with the loneliness and isolation the war seems to have brought upon Ada.
Within these two settings, a vivid, compelling and, at times, very disturbing portrait of the war-torn South unfolds. The characters with whom Inman and Ada interact are surprisingly complex, enhanced by wonderful performances of Brendan Gleeson as Ruby's deadbeat father, Ray Winstone as an unrepentant southern "lawman," and Natalie Portman as a deeply troubled and isolated young mother. All have been greatly affected and changed by "the war of Northern aggression," mostly for the worse. The dark, pervading anti-war message, accented by an effective, haunting score and chillingly beautiful shots of Virginia and North Carolina, is communicated to the audience not so much by gruesome battle scenes as by the scarred land and traumatized people for which the war was fought. Though the weapons and tactics of war itself have changed much in the past century, it's hellish effect on the land is timelessly relevant.
Director Anthony Minghella manages to maintain this gloomy mood for most of the film, but the atmosphere is unfortunately denigrated by a rather tepid climax that does little justice to the wonderfully formed characters. The love story between Inman and Ada is awkwardly tacked onto the beginning and end of the film, though the inherently distant, abstracted and even absurd nature of their relationship in a way fits the dismal nature of the rest of the plot.
Make no mistake, "Cold Mountain" has neither the traits of a feel-good romance nor an inspiring war drama. It is a unique vision of an era that is sure not only to entertain but also to truly absorb the audience into the lives of a people torn apart by a war and entirely desperate to be rid of its terrible repercussions altogether.
This movie moved me more than I was expecting, and I was fully prepared to cry. The acting mainly carried this film, with superb performances from Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger, as well as the supporting cast. These actors portrayed characters so intensely human that they lingered the remainder of the night with me, and I had trouble shaking this war drama. The costumes and cinematography were also magical, but didn't get carried away with themselves. They didn't take focus, but added to the whole effect. Cold Mountain could never become my favorite movie, as that title will always belong to The English Patient, but it's in the top five. The story itself was well developed, and stayed fairly unpredictable. I did not find myself guessing what line came next. A heart-wrenching story about humanity and war. In fact, this movie was so strongly real that it was barely noticeable it took place in the 19th century. It seemed to apply to all times.
There are a couple of things wrong with this episodic, rather sweeping film, but not enough to destroy it. Fortunately, the good outweighs the bad enough to make it worthwhile viewing. Law plays a shy, but thoughtful young man in Cold Mountain, NC. When the local minister's daughter (Kidman) moves to town, he is immediately taken with her and they share a few very brief, very stifled moments (including an impromptu kiss) before he leaves to fight in the Civil War. (An opening battle scene is so intense that the impact of it literally tears the clothes off one participant!) As they each experience great change, disappointment and destruction, it is their longing for each other that keeps them going. He can't wait to get back to her and she can't wait for him to come back. As Law treks across the southeastern coast, he comes upon a wide variety of opponents and allies. These are all played with great skill by a terrific gallery of solid, semi-name actors (Hoffman, Ribisi, Portman, Atkins, etc......) Meanwhile, Kidman faces the end of her gentle existence and almost existence itself until a scrappy, brassy local girl steps in to rescue her. Zellweger plays this feisty, mouthy girl, using every ounce of her acting prowess. The pair must fend off an opportunistic home guardsman played by a slimy Winstone. The film lurches forward with the all-important reunion moment dangling in front of the viewers like a carrot on a stick. It is solely due to the acting talent and intense chemistry of the stars and not the sketchy, spotty script that this moment carries any dramatic weight at all. Somehow, Law and Kidman manage the impossible, which is to create a romance and desire for one another that is never properly developed on the screen. They are forced to create everything through their expressions and body language and do just that. As good as they are, they are almost completely overtaken by the surprisingly wondrous and intriguing work of Zellweger. Her welcome dash of vinegar and bluntness is a perfect counterpoint for the dewy and sensitive lovers. Also, of particular note is another surprise - the downright striking job that Portman does as a lonely widow and mother. She outdoes herself in this brief role. As a matter of fact, nearly every performance in the film is excellent. The one exception is the horribly anachronistic and inexplicable presence of the peroxide blonde henchman to Winstone. His punk-rock, eyelinered look and shopping-mall line delivery remove the viewer from the already tenuous time period whenever he's on screen. (And is it ever stated why someone his age isn't IN the war??) That's one other problem. There is very little period feel to this film. It always seems like the actors are playing with clothes they found at Western Costume with their make up done by Ben Nye. Kidman's hair, while lovely, is absolutely ridiculous. It distracts from and detracts from scenes very often. Ditto her make up. One key scene near the end is a close up and her heavy mascara and shadow grey/purple eyeshadow (masterfully applied by those Hollywood wizards) turn what should have been an agonizing emotional moment into "Barbie Does the Civil War". Zellweger does better in the make-up department, though her chemically-whitened teeth do not go very far in suggesting her character's background. Her deliberately tousled hair is also a problem at times, but nowhere near the level of Kidman's. These are quibbles in light of the bigger problem which is an overriding predictability. Even to one who has never read the book, there is no doubt as to the ending of the film. There is very little room for surprise and what there is of that is telegraphed again and again. So the audience is left watching a 2-1/2 hour film with a foregone conclusion. (And this sometimes meandering work was originally FIVE hours long!) The amount of footage left on the cutting room floor makes for some uncomfortable continuity (such as when a character is tortured and watches 3 family members slaughtered and is next seen smilingly dancing a Christmas jig!) Nevertheless, the romance and beauty of the film still delivers and there is no doubt that Kidman is a MOVIE STAR. She glows and glistens and has every accommodation made to her. Even her old riding coat looks runway perfect. Law is achingly beautiful in the early scenes, but delivers a sincere, dedicated performance in spite of his physical features (which are all but buried as it wears on.)
A strongly acted and always interesting portrait of the hardships that came with the American Civil War, not only for soldiers but for those who did not fight too. The times are portrayed well, with sets and costumes that cannot be faulted. What can be flawed in the film however is the central romance, which is without much spark or realism. But all the action surrounding the romance is great, with some good-natured humorous touches, wonderful supporting characters and the perfect picture overall of life during the American Civil War. The cast is superb, with Zellweger in particular undergoing a superb transformation from her typical roles. The film is generally well written and well directed by Minghella, so that in spite of a lackluster romance, the film is still a captivating and entertaining watch.
Anthony Minghela's (writer/director) Cold Mountain is a carefully
constructed, sensitive, and intelligent drama set in the social context
of the confederacy during the civil war. It deals with the politics of
the war in a very subtle and realistic manner. While it accurately
depicts the brutality and inhumanity of that war, it also does
something that many films related to this period do not handle
effectively - Cold Mountain studies the southern context from the
inside out, and portrays changes among the non-slave owning common
people wrought by the war. Almost uniquely, Cold Mountain does not
over-generalize southerners, northerners or anybody else.
The film surfs through genres as needed - never presenting a dull moment. It is a romance, a war story, an action-adventure and historical fiction, all nicely woven into one.
The story centers on Inman (Jude Law) and Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), who are smitten with each other for very simple reasons. As this young romance begins to bud, Inman enlists in the confederate army, taking with him a book Ada has given him and a photograph of her. Ada's character is one of the most brilliant aspects of the film, which is important because the audience experiences this film from a third person perspective, but the story is clearly hers from the beginning to the end. Ada is an intelligent southern belle and daughter of a liberal minister. She begins the film as a daddy's girl skilled in many of the arts that southern women who have been surrounded by servants most of their lives were expected to learn. In other words, as she admits to Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger), she is a master of everything useless.
Ada's father passes on, and she is left to manage his modest estate by herself. With no experience of this sort, she struggles, and survives by holding the memory of Inman close to her heart. Ruby enters the picture as a tough young woman who has been raised by a drunk and negligent father. Ruby has all the skills and abilities Ada lacks, and as they become inseparable business partners, they grow to love one another as best friends. Inman's experience is radically different, but something of a mirror image. During his participation in the war, he sees many friends killed for causes they don't really believe in, and decides to desert. Nobody he meets comes to his rescue as he begins the thousand mile walk back to Cold Mountain and Ada, and most of those he meets die.
The bulk of the film takes place during Inman's long walk, following both of the protagonists as they live, learn, grow and change. An on-going act of will borne of desperation preserves their intense passionate love. For Inman, it is his only source of hope in a world of pure desperation. For Ada, it is very much the same thing, but also a symbol and remnant of the old south - a world which is rapidly passing.
The cinematography is powerful and breathtaking. There are beautiful shots of Appalachian landscapes which give the film a strong sense of history. The script and editing are also extremely strong - emphasizing the broad class and educational differences reflected in the ante bellum southern dialects of the middle and lower classes. With the cast of this film, nothing short of perfection should be expected. And the cast, mostly, rises to the occasion. My one criticism, however, relates to the accents adopted by Kidman and Law's characters. An Australian and a Brit probably should not be expected to accurately reproduce southern American speech, but there are a few occasions where these two exceptionally gifted actors produce distracting vocal slips. I admit my oversensitivity to this, and can say with some confidence that it won't bother most people. Zellweger's performance is outstanding and she creates a character I will remember into my senescence.
Very highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Minor spoilers in this post)
Cold Mountain's greatest flaw may have been its wrong-headed promotion as a great one-on-one love story. It is more a revelation of people, place and time.
We avoided the theatrical release, because of the Law-Kidman romance that was promised (just another date movie...), then I read the Charles Frazier book. Oh. Think again.
The film is nearly true to the novel. If anything, Minghella felt compelled to make more of Ada and Inman's budding romance before the war. "I-I don't know you" is spoken several times in voiced letters and at the end in the film. In the novel, they didn't know each other at all: three awkward meetings and one fumbled kiss.
But, as happens in real life, Inman and Ada felt something was possible ... then their worlds were overturned. Minghella is true to Frazier in the bulk of the story.
Ada is a photo that Inman carries, but she really represents HOME: Cold Mountain, his real love. A return to sanity from the insanity of mass murder.
Inman is a photo that Ada keeps. He is a glimpse into the rural life she began to appreciate after her unhappy girlhood in the crinolines and parasols of Charleston. Her scholarly father was her one true friend. His early death left her completely alone, neither fish nor fowl.
Until kindly Sally Swanger (Kathy Baker) sends Ruby Thewes (Renée Z) over to kill that floggin' rooster, and shows her how to survive.
Maybe that's what disappoints many formula love-story critics. Law and Kidman are apart for nearly the entire film. Ruby and Ada get that place a-workin' -- just enough to last the winters at first, but functioning. Ada doesn't pine for Inman; in her letters she is caring, then as times get worse, she is very strong: "If you are fighting, stop fighting. If you are marching, stop marching. Come home. Come home to Cold Mountain. That is my request."
Another frequent complaint is that Cold Mountain is "episodic". Yeah, it is. That's the structure of the novel. Inman's desperate journey is another retelling of Homer's Odyssey - and that was THE love story of the ages, more than Romeo and Juliet.
This is a story of the War Between The States, but one that looks beyond the the glory and horror of Gettysburg, Antietam and Manassas. This ain't "Gods and Generals" ... this is about a few ordinary people in an obscure corner of America. Inman's journey is a way of revealing how that war's evil claws reached the most innocent folks. And turned a few of them unspeakably cruel.
Perhaps Frazier and Minghella did not intend to remind us, but their story was echoed in 1990's Bosnia; and too many other places today.
Cold Mountain: the Frazier novel curled all my toes with its poetry, suspense and aching love of the mountains. Minghella earns two of my thumbs and a few toes for getting it on film.
10/10 for the book; 8.5/10 for the movie.
There are so many good things to praise in COLD MOUNTAIN that it pains me to
say that staying with it to the very end is sometimes difficult because it
drags in spots and some of the story-telling techniques are awkwardly
Nothing but kudos for the casting. Nicole Kidman and Jude Law are in top form--with Law hiding his good looks most of the time under beard, stubble or mud. Renee Zellweger makes us understand why she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as the tough but tender-hearted Ruby. Cinematography and background score are tops.
By the time the two lovers have been reunited for the finale, much has happened in the way of showing how war brutalizes men. Anthony Minghella doesn't flinch from showing the harsh realities of battle and then switching to scenes of pastoral splendor on the home front.
It's a film in which all the ingredients are put together with exceptional craftsmanship. So much so, that you wish the script had been a little stronger to make the two hours and thirty-four minutes more absorbing. Unfortunately, it tends to take too long to tell a tale that lacks the power of holding interest once it gets past the midway point.
Nevertheless, anyone interested in the Civil War period will find this a meticulous work as far as costumes, settings and use of folk music is concerned.
But be warned: This bittersweet romance at times is downright depressing and the gritty war scenes (and the brutality of certain Yankee soldiers) are about as graphic as such battle scenes usually get. The overall feeling is one of awe that so much has been accomplished and yet there is something unsatisfying about the tale itself.
In Cold Mountain, North Colorado, near to the period of the American
Civil War, the Reverend Monroe (Donald Sutherland) arrives in the small
town with his daughter, the shy Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), due to
health reasons. Ada meets the also shy Inman (Jude Law), and they fall
in love with each other. With the beginning of the war, Inman becomes a
soldier, and his great support to stay alive is the wish to see Ada in
Cold Mountain again. Meanwhile, Ada meets Ruby Thewes (Renée
Zellweger), a survivor of the war, who helps her in the farm and
becomes her best friend. The story alternates present and past
situations, disclosing a beautiful romance. I liked this film a lot.
Having names such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman and
Giovanni Ribisi in the supporting cast, a magnificent direction of
Anthony Minghella and seven indications to the Oscar, this movie does
not disappoint. My remark is that there are some very important scenes
deleted in the story and presented in the DVD. At least one of them,
which show what happens with Sara, her baby and the three dead bodies
in her farm, should not be deleted as it was. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): 'Cold Mountain'
Cold Mountain is directed by Anthony Minghella who also adapts to
screenplay from Charles Frazier's novel of the same name. It stars Jude
Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger, Eileen Atkins, Kathy Baker,
Brendan Gleeson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ray Winstone and Natalie
Portman.Music is scored by Gabriel Yared and cinematography by John
Seale. Plot finds Law as W.P. Inman, a wounded deserter from the
Confederate army who is trying to make his way back to North Carolina
to rekindle a fledgling romance with Ada Monroe (Kidman).
This is Minghella's world and the American Civil War movie gets a double shot in the arm as Cold Mountain not only deals in the home front, but also in the perilous life of the soldier. Add into the mix a fire cracker of an opening, a central romance and an array of expertly drawn characters, and it's safe to say that Minghella's film is not only epic in production, but also in story telling. In essence the film is about love, friendships and learning to cope under the most trying of circumstances, but the director doesn't paint it with a sentimental brush. As the three strands of the narrative play out, tone is often gritty, intense, sorrowful even, with Minghella cribbing from the Anthony Mann Western book by having the stunning landscapes form part of the characters emotional world.
Come back to me, come back to me
Story is strong, even if the key romance is soft; since it's told mostly in flash backs, but those flash backs are threaded into the main seam of Ada's life on the home front and Inman's perilous odyssey. She, befriended by hard working, dirty handed, Ruby Thewes (Zellewegger excellent); who also provides the only moments of levity within, he, meeting up with a number of interesting characters, both good and bad. This of course makes the film episodic, but in this instance it's a good thing, mainly because characters are so utterly compelling. Hoffman as a less than honourable priest and Portman as a young woman out in a wood cabin, alone with her sick baby, they stand out. But there's also the Home Guard attached enforcers led by blood thirsty Teague (Winstone) and a potent thread involving Ruby's fiddle playing father, Stobrod (Gleeson as usual a considerable screen presence).
On the technical front it's hard to find fault, it's a tip top production. Romania's mountains, rolling hills and forests form the backdrop to most of the action, with John Seale's Academy Award nominated photography neatly passing for a rugged North Carolina. While the costumes, set design and Yared's score also add impetus to the feel of the time. There's some minor itches, such as fluctuating accents and the delicacy of the romance lacking the passion to drive such a journey by Inman on, but they are not flaws. Such is the strength of Minghella's story telling ability, Cold Mountain still comes out as great cinema. A film that can stay in your mind for days after viewing it. Bleak yet subtle, savage yet tender, a different sort of Civil war movie. Amen to that. 9/10
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