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Cold Mountain (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary with Anthony Minghella and Walter Murch; 'Climbing Cold Mountain' documentary (70 mins); 'A Journey To Cold Mountain' making of special (28 mins). 'Words and Music of Cold Mountain' - Royce Hall special (93 mins). Deleted scenes; Sacred Heart History; Storyboard comparisons.

IN A year which has been marked by a definite swing back towards a more traditional approach to story-telling at the cinema (Seabiscuit, The Lord of the Rings, etc), it is, perhaps, fitting, that 2003 should be brought to a close by this old-school epic.

Cold Mountain is Anthony Minghella’s gripping adaptation of Charles Frazier’s acclaimed novel, featuring Jude Law as wounded Confederate soldier, Inman, who treks back to be reunited with his would-be lover, Ada (Nicole Kidman), against insurmountable odds.

The film works as both a nod to Homer’s Odyssey, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, and as a glorious throwback to epics such as Gone With The Wind, while also functioning on a spiritual level, in terms of Inman’s journey towards some sort of personal redemption.

And while the much-touted romance between the two leads might not work as effectively as it should, partly due to the fact that it doesn’t stem from an all-consuming love in the first place, the film remains a beautifully acted, and sumptuously shot, epic, which should fare well in terms of nominations come next year’s awards season.

It also bears all the hallmarks of a Minghella production, containing the same tragic wartime elements of The English Patient, as well as the dark tone of The Talented Mr Ripley, and neatly contrasting the romantic interludes with an unflinching portrayal of the brutality which exists around them.

The director, himself, states that he wasn’t simply trying to make a love story about a man and a woman, but something which involves a journey for both characters; while the intense bond which develops between them during the three years they are separated, is borne out of research which shows that ‘when death is very close at hand, life becomes very urgent and accelerates relationships’.

Ada serves as much as a metaphor for home, as it does a chance for Inman to be reunited with a loved one, and to share some intimacy and tenderness with someone he cares for, at a time when he has lost sight of the person he was when he set off for war.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Cold Mountain fails to function as the out and out weepie it could so easily have become, but while the die-hard romantics may feel a little cheated by the director’s somewhat cold, detached approach, it doesn’t detract from the overall power of the piece, or the quality of the performances.

Law is typically excellent as the wounded Confederate, neatly shrugging aside his good-looks to deliver a performance which is both tender and brutal, while Kidman continues to demonstrate what a fine actress she is, and why she remains so sought-after.

But it is the supporting players who consistently threaten to walk away with the acting honours, with Renée Zellweger, especially, injecting some much-needed humour in her feisty turn as the rough ‘n’ ready Ruby, who arrives at Ada’s farm to offer her assistance and life lessons.

While the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, as a promiscuous priest, Natalie Portman, as a desperate single mother, Ray Winstone, as a despicable villain, and Giovanni Ribisi, as a turncoat, also provide telling cameos, serving to ensure that Inman’s journey, while long, never becomes tedious, or dull.

And while the picturesque landscape of Romania (doubling as North Carolina) provides for a sweeping backdrop, the visceral beauty is nicely offset by some harsh violence, which serves to illustrate the ruthlessness and sheer wastefulness of war, and the effect it has on men’s souls.

Richly compelling, consistently mature and deeply thought-provoking, Cold Mountain is the final must-see movie of 2003.

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