Retro Review: Cold Mountain

Back in the glory days of Hollywood, the epic love story was the foundation picture for any studios schedule.

The classic celluloid stars of that era thrown together in dire circumstances to fall in love in the boldest of situations and traditions.

The largest example and probably the most successful of those attempts was the luxurious “Gone with the Wind” where epic romance was subplotted against the trials and tribulations of the American Civil War.

What was it about that war that has sparked so many films about the subject? “Cold Mountain” is no exception.

Nicole Kidman stars as Ada Monroe, a sheltered, educated spinster who moves with her minister father (Donald Sutherland) to the quiet village of Cold Mountain. Ada isn’t wise in the ways of farming life but does her best to support her father’s decision.

Nearly upon her arrival, a local carpenter named Inman (Jude Law) takes a liking to Ada and thus tries to begin a courtship. Their affections begin to emerge just as the American Civil War comes a calling and Inman is whisked off to the frontlines.

Many years click by but the yearning between Inman and Ada grows. Ada is discouraged that she may never see her beloved again. During one last letter she asks for him to return to her. After watching his friends slaughtered and nearly losing his own life, Inman risks a perilous journey home to his Ada. His journey will change him forever but is Ada the woman he has always loved or has the hardships of the war taken their toll on her too.

“Cold Mountain” is in the truest of the words your sweeping Hollywood epic.

Director Anthony Minghella, famous for his work on “The English Patient” and “Talented Mr. Ripley”, brings his new tale into a darker world as we start to see the harshness that these characters must endure. Minghella also allows the village of Cold Mountain deteriorates as the story escalates. I also liked that we the audience endure the yearning that these characters do as well. Like his other works, Minghella really knows how to draw an audience into the world he is trying to imagine.

Kidman’s portrayal of Ada isn’t the boldest or strongest she has ever done but we do believe in her ability to overcome in hopes of seeing Inman one last time. I really enjoyed Jude Law’s heroic portrayal of Inman. He is in every way the classic Hollywood hero on a quest to define himself and his mission in life.

The performances I enjoyed the most were that of Renee Zellweger as Ada’s companion Ruby and the film’s villain Teague, played by British actor Ray Winstone. I loved the comedy and frankness of Zellweger’s Ruby. She was a spitfire and so completely opposite to Ada. Zellweger seemed to play the part with ease and it was amazing how different the character was to anything she has played since.

Completely opposite from Zellweger is the performance by Ray Winstone. He plays Teague as subtle and disgusting slimeball who has his sites on Ada. The way Winstone can get under your skin with just a glance is amazing. It is flawless and such an incredible performance.

I love epic films where the whole scale of a film is a character unto itself. In “Cold Mountain” it is the yearning that becomes that character. If you don’t believe this core character than you probably won’t enjoy the film.

I enjoyed the struggle, the yearning, the situations and the characters. “Cold Mountain” is one of the best films of the year.

(4.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

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