Cold Mountain movie review, Anthony Minghella, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Giovanni Ribisi, Donald Sutherland, Brendan Gleeson, Charlie Hunnam, Ray Winstone, Jena Malone, Kathy Baker, James Gammon, Lucas Black, Eileen Atkins, Taryn Manning, James Rebhorn, Ethan Suplee, Mark Jeffrey Miller, Jack White, Melora Walters, Cillian Murphy. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire

A scene from 'Cold Mountain'
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** stars
155 minutes | Rated: R
WIDE: Thursday, December 25, 2003
Adapted & directed by Anthony Minghella

Starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi, Donald Sutherland, Brendan Gleeson, Charlie Hunnam, Ray Winstone, Jena Malone, Kathy Baker, James Gammon, Lucas Black, Eileen Atkins, Taryn Manning, James Rebhorn, Ethan Suplee, Mark Jeffrey Miller, Jack White, Melora Walters, Cillian Murphy

1996 interview with
director Anthony Minghella


The vivid, colorful sense of place this film has will not come across as well without widescreen -- and the film's battle scenes alone are worth it. Pity the characters are so cold.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 06.29.2004

  • Civil War
  • Anthony Minghella
  • Jude Law
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Renee Zellweger
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • Natalie Portman
  • Giovanni Ribisi
  • Donald Sutherland
  • Brendan Gleeson
  • Charlie Hunnam
  • Ray Winstone
  • Jena Malone
  • Kathy Baker
  • Lucas Black
  • Eileen Atkins
  • Taryn Manning
  • James Rebhorn
  • Ethan Suplee
  • Cillian Murphy

  •  LINKS for this film
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    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
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    Epic Civil War romance would lack passion without its spectacular supporting cast

    By Rob Blackwelder

    From the very first words of its opening voice-over, in which a detectable trace of Aussie inflection invades Nicole Kidman's affected Southern accent, there's something amiss with "Cold Mountain," a two-and-a-half-hour Civil War epic built around a lackluster love story, written and directed by an Englishman, starring half a dozen British actors and shot in Romania.

    Sweeping in scope, the picture's earnest intentions, period atmosphere and cinematic beauty are above reproach as it portrays brutal, bloody, brother-against-brother battlefields and a North Carolina home-front hamlet where prim, city-bred newcomer Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) waits for the return of her soldier sweetheart while struggling to survive on her dead father's farm.

    And yet, the emotional investment in the characters is something less than sweeping. The passionless decorum of Ada's first-reel courtship by the adoring but reticent Inman (Jude Law), the declaration of war which cuts short their time together, and the questionable casting of Kidman -- who at 36 is too old to be credible as a bashful unmarried belle in 1864 Dixie -- result in a lack of validity and vitality that isn't remedied until the invigorating second-act arrival of Renee Zellweger.

    Filling the screen and the withered farm fields with her daringly pungent, force-of-nature performance as a grubby, lowborn drifter named Ruby, she's an innate field-hand-for-hire with a permanently puckered motormouth and an outdoorsy, arm-swinging stride who turns up on Ada's doorstep seeking room and board in exchange for teachin' the bucolic tenderfoot some fundamental hard lessons of survival and self-sufficiency.

    Zellweger is just one of many sublime co-stars who upstage the film's romantic leads. Brendan Gleeson ("Gangs of New York," "28 Days Later") soon arrives on the scene as Ruby's formerly abusive daddy who'd "walk forty miles for liquor, but not forty inches for kindness," and who is now a Confederate deserter looking for a handout and a place to hide. Kathy Baker ("The Glass House") is memorably poignant as a neighbor whose sons' desertion leads to terrible consequences administered by a malevolent sheriff (Ray Winstone).

    In the parallel story, a battle-injured Inman goes AWOL himself, recognizing the futility of the South's continued combat. Risking execution to be reunited with Ada, he begins an arduous, perilous journey home, meeting up with the movie's biggest scene-stealers along the way. The inspired Philip Seymour Hoffman is an amusing but deservedly disgraced preacher on the run from a lynch mob, and the absolutely heartbreaking Natalie Portman is a war widow with a new baby who takes Inman into her ramshackle cabin out of both kindness and romantic despair.

    Giovanni Ribisi, Jena Malone, Eileen Atkins and Donald Sutherland (as Ada's father) also have small but memorable roles, and with each of these performances one thing becomes abundantly clear: When all of your supporting characters are more compelling and charismatic than your leads, your movie is in trouble.

    But Kidman and Law aren't the problem, per se. She captures Ada's pride, determination and resilient faith in the face of harsh adversity with enough courage to almost forgive the makeup artist who keeps her looking absurdly fresh and beautiful for the circumstances. Law smolders with similar perseverance and lends Inman's reserve a war-weary dignity.

    Given a more focused and personal story, a less momentous backdrop and fewer peripheral characters, these two potent actors could have effectively developed the unspoken infatuation that blossoms between Ada and Inman into a tender relationship of agonizing separation. But the longing in their letters, read as narration, just isn't enough to draw you into their romance.

    Director Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient," "The Talented Mr. Ripley"), who also adapted the screenplay from Charles Frazier's novel, does many things well in "Cold Mountain," including portraying the horrors of 19th century warfare with disconcerting breadth and precision. The most powerful moment in the movie is actually on the battlefield when an American Indian fighting for the Confederacy and a black man fighting for the Union come face to face, with blades drawn and fire in their eyes, and share a sudden, sorrowful, silent and fleeting epiphany that they are both pawns in a white man's war.

    But these characters are barely a token afterthought of the larger story, which never fulfills its outsized ambitions. "Cold Mountain" leaves a cornucopia of such brilliant small moments and supporting performances frustratingly isolated in the corners of Minghella's otherwise unfruitful fields.


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