A review of “Cold Mountain”
Rating: R for extreme war
violence, language and nudity
hours, 36 minutes
Minghella’s blistering adaptation of Charles Frazier’s dense Civil War novel
has integrity oozing out of every cinematic pore.
in dramatic heat what it lacks in raw emotion, Mountain tells the sad story of Inman (Jude Law), a simple
craftsman cum wounded Confederate soldier who embarks on a perilous journey to
return to his pre-war sweetheart Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman).
and winding road back to Cold Mountain, North
Carolina is a par course of pain and
suffering. Inman encounters all manner
of human beings at their basest form, from a philandering, sex-obsessed
preacher named Veasey (the phenomenal Philip Seymour Hoffman) to a frightened
war widow (Natalie Portman) nursing a gravely ill infant. A backwoods redneck (Giovanni Ribisi)
harboring a virtual harem of wanton women brings Deliverance sharply in focus.
On the home
front, Ada sees the
world as she knows it go up in smoke. Upon the death of her father (Donald
Sutherland), the musical, French and Latin-speaking (read: genteel) Ada is
forced to work the land of their expansive farm all by her lonesome, something
akin to Scarlett O’Hara’s unrelenting trials in Gone With the Wind. Salvation arrives in the form of feisty
drifter Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger), an ace toiler who offers to co-work the deteriorating
homestead in return for food and shelter.
As the film
cuts back and forth between scenarios, the violence and brutality of the times
is uncomfortably evident. The
trigger-happy Home Guard roams the countryside, anxious to locate and
shoot-to-kill Civil War deserters, and stopping at nothing to keep the fires of
their murderous rampage stoked.
has crafted a lush film resounding with blue-ribbon production values. The Civil
War comes to chaotic life with a literal bang and buckets o’blood, and rural Romania’s lush snowscapes
(standing in for Carolina’s Blue Ridge
Mountains) are sinisterly pristine.
As was the
case in The Human Stain,
Kidman is altogether too ravishing to look the part of a long-suffering
laborer. Her persistent glow is not in keeping with a woman perpetually on the
brink of starvation. Law’s still-waters-run-deep mannerisms and brooding beauty
are meaty enough to get the job done.
Zellweger is a perpetual scene-stealer, yawing and yammering her way
through home-grown Southern dialogue (Texas native
that she is) and working her heartfelt humor into the bleak ambiance. She and Kidman flaunt a saving-grace chemistry
that underscores their substantial shared screen time.
Cold Mountain is not the
masterpiece it could have been or should be, perhaps due to the sheer mass of
its lofty narrative. Its love story is
elemental; born of the tragedy of the times and shimmering with subdued desire.
(“Stop fighting, stop marching, come back to me”). It’s a beautiful film, lacking some resonance
but sparkling with accomplishment and sure to please discerning adult audiences.