Movie Review
Cold Mountain
Cold Mountain poster
By Jennifer Alpeche     Published December 29, 2003
US Release: December 25, 2003

Directed by: Anthony Minghella
Starring: Jude Law , Nicole Kidman , Renée Zellweger , Natalie Portman

Running Time: 155 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $95,633,000
Anthony Minghella offers a beautiful adaptation of Charles Frazier?s beloved novel, from the script to the actors to the look of the film.
"Come back to me. Come back to me, is my request."

In Anthony Minghella?s marvelous, episodic film, "Cold Mountain," love coexists with war. Presented in a number of ways, love serves as a source of strength, courage, hope and forgiveness; it unites two people destined, yet separated by distance and years; it manages to heal old wounds, as well as blossom from friendships unexpected and needed. Love in "Cold Mountain" finds a way to exist despite the cruelties of war, and indeed illustrates its power by refusing to fade despite the obstacles in its way.

Jude Law plays Inman, a reticent young man who falls in love with Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) at first sight, and who shares a few precious moments with her before becoming a Confederate soldier and departing for the war. Though they have a difficult time communicating for the most part, they do exchange portraits, silently asking the other to never forget. During their years apart, their memories grow in importance and each writes letters, putting in words of how they feel and continue to feel, though each has been changed by the war.

Threading the film from beginning to end is Inman?s journey back to Cold Mountain, back to Ada. After three years of war, he has seen enough death, and the enthusiasm with which he first approached battle has since gone away. No longer believing in the cause and disillusioned by the bloody reality that surrounds him, he decides to trek home, hoping to reunite with Ada and leave the war behind him. His journey is one of peril, for he is a deserter and the Home Guard is on his and every other deserter?s trail. Along the way, he finds danger and temptation, as well as betrayal, pain, and kindness; he meets each challenge with determination, pushing forward and on toward home.

The film moves back and forth between Inman?s journey and Ada?s life back in Cold Mountain. Adding to her despair of perhaps never seeing Inman again, Ada?s father dies, leaving her alone at Black Cove. She struggles to survive for some time, realizing quickly that she possesses none of the skills needed to successfully run a farm.

Though she needs help, she does not seek charity. Almost lost, she is thankfully visited one day by an industrious handywoman, Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger), who offers her help, but makes it clear that they will work together and that Ada will have to do her share. It is an enterprise that Ada never saw coming, but one that she ultimately embraces. Together, the two women whip Black Cove back into shape and form a dear friendship that is as important to their survival as the crops they grow and the fences they build.

Thus, Inman and Ada take on personal journeys that span years and change them; but through it all, what remains are their feelings. Minghella uses voice-over so that we may hear the letters written and further understand how constant and vital Inman and Ada?s love is; it is something for them to believe in, a future to hope for. We see them looking at each other?s portraits; Inman reading from a book Ada gave him, speaking about her to those who will listen; Ada alone thinking of Inman, missing him and praying, talking with Ruby. Such moments are brief, but are faithfully presented and are never forgotten.

Hand-in-hand with the love story in "Cold Mountain" is the tale told by the effects of civil war. When a nation was divided and allies and foes lived within the same town, amongst each other; when power was seized by a handful and survival was fought for by most of everyone else. Indeed, survival in the film is seen in as many ways as love is, and love?s power is certainly tied into survival?s success: "My last thread of courage is to wait, and believe."

Charged with the task of bringing "Cold Mountain" to life is a wonderful cast led by Jude Law, who gives an absolutely stunning performance as Inman. Kidman and Zellweger are fantastic as well, and memorable characters such as Brenden Gleeson as Ruby?s father, Philip Seymour Hoffman as a fallen preacher, and Natalie Portman as a heartbreaking mother and widow, help illustrate themes of love and survival, not to mention redemption, corruption, and isolation.

Helming the picture, Anthony Minghella offers a beautiful adaptation of Charles Frazier?s beloved novel, a challenge that he has risen to, investing time and vision in bringing "Cold Mountain" to the big screen, from the script to the actors to the look of the film. The landscapes, the snowy shots, and the recreation of a mountain town are all lovely thanks to award-winning cinematographer John Seale and production designer, Dante Ferretti. The film?s soundtrack, composed by T-Bone Burnett, is terrific, with moments of song and dance, and a haunting love theme sung by Alison Krause.

"Cold Mountain" is a powerful film that takes on the horrors of war by first showing its destruction on the battlefield, and then the personal impact it has on those who witness it near and far. The changes it imposes are harsh and we see before our eyes how it can transform. But through it all, the film reminds us of what is possible from love, and the amount of strength an individual has and exhibits when pressed and inspired; to push on, for one?s self, as well as for another; for the memory of love, and for a promise given.
Jennifer's Grade: A
Jennifer's Overall Grading: 6 graded movies
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'Cold Mountain' Articles
  • Stephen's review A-
    January 3, 2004    A sweeping epic love story, and the writing is befitting. -- Stephen Lucas