"Cold Mountain" apt title for distant movie

by Eric Melin on December 26, 2003

in Print Reviews

Directed by Oscar winner Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”) and starring Oscar winner Nicole Kidman, Oscar nominee Jude Law, and multiple-Oscar nominee Renee Zellweger, the Oscar-grubbing studio Miramax presents its front-runner for the 2003 Academy Awards.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Cold Mountain”!

For such a hugely pedigreed film, “Cold Mountain” is largely a disappointing game of connect-the-dots that doesn’t quite form a full picture. Maybe it would have worked better as a series of short films featuring different stories from the Civil War.

Jude Law is saddled with the common role of the lead hunk, Inman, who is a “man of few words.” A couple brief conversations with Kidman’s Ada, and one kiss later, he’s off to fight for the South to kill some Yankees.

The script is constantly reminding us that Inman and Ada’s fondness for each other without really knowing the other person is precisely what drives them through the hard times they each face alone. But it is precisely the nature of this relationship that makes it so dull.

So, of course, Ada and Inman have their little personal dramas and adventures along the way. It is nice to see Philip Seymour Hoffman and Renee Zellweger show up to provide us with something to get excited about. It’s also nice to hear some southern accents that have no trace of England or Australia. Zellweger does the most with her hard-working poor girl stereotype, and Hoffman actually makes a slimy reverend likable, but these are just more one-dimensional characters in a story full of them.

Inman particularly was a hard one to grasp. At the outset, Inman is excited, like all the other Carolina boys, to go off to war. He gives a look to Ada that says he’d like to stay for her, but then he’s off. Later, after the war has taken its toll, he can’t wait to get home. No cause is mentioned for going to war, but later in the film he says that the war is being “fought for a cause he doesn’t believe in.”

Assuming that this means he doesn’t support slavery, it was a bit late in the movie to find this out.

Did he meet someone that changed his mind, or did he have this opinion from the beginning?

What is with all this gray area surrounding the reason people were fighting this war? It certainly serves the plot to be black-and-white about the why the local men around town start rounding up and murdering southern deserters and “treasoners” who help them. These are the worst example of cookie-cutter dumb villains that I’ve seen in a while. They are not once believable, and commit one stupid act of shocking violence for no other reason than to shock, it seems.

So after all the struggle and all the build-up, I’d expected Inman and Ada’s reunion to be a joyous shedding of human emotion. Even if their moments together were brief, they were single-minded in the thought of being with each other. Instead, it’s an uncomfortable moment, and then on to the next scene. Soon, however, this is remedied with an unconvincing sex scene and things are where a good love story should be.

That brings us to the tragic conclusion.

The ending of “Cold Mountain” was so obvious that Minghella first shows it to you in a dream, and then Kidman tells you about it. And finally, as the last conflict between the good guys and the bad guys starts, the bad guys do everything short of jumping up and down in the snow, yelling “This is it! The moment you’ve all been waiting for! Get out yer hankies!”

I liked some of the battle sequences in “Cold Mountain,” and, as short stories, some of the vignettes worked rather well. Unfortunately, great costumes, sweeping cinematography, and a couple good scenes and performances don’t add up to a good movie. On the surface, it had so many things going for it, but “Cold Mountain” is definitely a cup that’s only half-filled.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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