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:: Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain will no doubt be compared to Anthony Minghella’s previous adaptation of a literary sensation, The English Patient. But while The English Patient was a dull, emotionless exercise, miscast and misconceived, Cold Mountain is a beautiful, poetic success.

The film follows two separate strands, intercut in a novel-like fashion, as Inman (Jude Law) makes his way across the country as a deserter from The Civil War to Ada (Nicole Kidman), his sweetheart back home, who learns to survive on the land on her own with little hope of ever seeing the man she loves again.

Despite the entire Oscars buzz, the two leads are the least interesting characters and give the weakest performances. Jude Law as Inman is a blank cipher of morality and goodness, whilst Kidman makes rural Southern poverty and hardship look a little too much like the cover of Vogue. The performances that really stand out are Renee Zellweger as Ruby, a tough talking, capable independent woman who steals all the scenes she’s in and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Veasey, a hypocritical preacher on the run from his cuckolded congregation. The characters Inman meets on his journey home are far more interesting than Inman himself, and Ada’s neighbour, played by Kathy Baker (Picket Fences) has a much more traumatic journey than Ada.

Cold Mountain begins with a visceral, gut wrenching depiction of the Battle Of The Crater, a bloody massacre that is the films strongest anti war statement. The rest of the violence plays out between the people left behind, those too old or young to go to war who are suddenly placed in positions of power, positions they all too readily learn to abuse.

The scenery is breathtaking, complemented by John Seale’s wonderful cinematography. The dialogue is poetic, without being distancing, and there is a magic and lyricism to the film that does not undermine the brutal realism of its violence.