Cold Mountain is an enjoyable and worthwhile film, but it is not necessarily
the film you think you went to see.
The director is Anthony Minghella who brought us the English Patient and
the two films have much in common. Minghella deals with big real-world
issues — love, death, brutality, responsibility, etc. — but
he somehow fails to convince that the real world he inhabits is the same
real world the rest of us live in.
Cold Mountain is the tale of two lovers separated by the American Civil
War — Jude Law is shy awkward country lad Inman, and Nicole Kidman
is the terribly self-assured Ada. Implausibly, with barely a word but lots
of meaningful stares, Law and Kidman fall for each other just in time for
Law to be carted off to war.
The story splits in two. Kidman’s father dies and she is left to
fend for herself and to fend off the compellingly nasty Teague (Ray Winstone)
who claims dibs on Ada for himself. Meanwhile, Inman is cast into the horrors
of the war. At the bloody battle of Petersberg — an actual historical
event, and here a powerful set piece — Inman acquits himself bravely,
but sickened by the carnage and pining for Ada, deserts. So begins a Homeric
trek across war ravaged South in which Law encounters unspeakable brutality
and is tempted by various sirens. The naïve country lad has his nose
rubbed in the realities of the world. The transformation in Inman is conveyed
with utter conviction in Law’s scarred and beaten face.
Yet, for a film that deals with big issues, it suffers from an otherworldlyness.
The war was about slavery, but there is barely a black face let alone a
slave or mention of the issues. Perhaps the love story is too slight to
hold together the disparate elements of this big tale. In the end Cold
Mountain is a bold and beautiful film that will leaving you muttering objections
right up until you cave in and go watch it again.
Review by Chris Page