Cold Mountain


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Rating: R

Jude Law as W.P. Inman
Nicole Kidman as Ada Monroe
Renée Zellweger as Ruby Thewes
Eileen Atkins as Maddy
Brendan Gleeson as Stobrod Thewes
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Veasey
Natalie Portman as Sara
Giovanni Ribisi as Junior
Donald Sutherland as Reverend Monroe
Ray Winstone as Teague
Kathy Baker as Sally Swanger
James Gammon as Esco Swanger
Charlie Hunnam as Bosie
Jack White as Georgia
Ethan Suplee as Pangle
Jena Malone as Ferry Girl

Special Features:
Commentary by writer/director Anthony Minghella and editor Walter Murch

11 deleted scenes

“Words & Music of Cold Mountain” Royce Hall Special concert

“Climbing Cold Mountain” – documentary

“A Journey to Cold Mountain” – making-of featurette

“Scared Harp History” – musical influences and roots

Storyboard comparisons (3 scenes)

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
French Language Track
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 154 Minutes

This film is based on the novel by Charles Frazier.

On the eve of the Civil War, Ada Monroe moves to Cold Mountain, North Carolina with her widowed reverend father. Shortly after arriving, she meets W.P. Inman, a quiet, stoic young man who is smitten with her. Ada soon falls for the mysterious young man, too, but their romance is cut short when the South declares war on the North. Inman is drafted into the confederate army and sent to the front lines.

Shortly after Inman leaves, Ada’s father dies. She’s then left to run the farm alone. However, she was raised as a Southern Belle and a socialite, so she has none of the skills necessary for survival on a farm. Fortunately Ada’s neighbor sends Ruby Thewes to help. Ruby is tough, independent, and well acquainted with life on her own. Together the two get the farm in order and survive through the war. They also become like sisters in the process.

Meanwhile, Inman is wounded in the battle of Petersburg, Virginia. Rather than go back to fighting a war he never believed in, he deserts and heads back to Cold Mountain for Ada. Along the way he braves many dangers, men hunting for deserters, and harsh weather. He also meets a wide variety of characters that help or hinder his quest to return home.

Cold Mountain is rated R for violence and sexuality.

The Movie:
I missed Cold Mountain in theaters, but I was finally able to watch this critically acclaimed film on DVD. While I think the smaller screen takes away from the epic look of the movie, it is still a very impressive display of acting talent, scenery, and folk music. I also didn’t read the novel, so I can’t compare the two. But Cold Mountain is an interesting Civil War romance even if it does depart from the original story.

One of the most notable things about Cold Mountain is the amazing cast. A wide range of talent was rounded up for this movie and it helps the film tremendously. Leading the cast is Jude Law as Inman. Though he’s brooding and quiet, he’s a good leading man and his determined drive to get back to Ada is a compelling quest. After all, everybody loves a good love story. Nicole Kidman is also good as Ada Monroe, a less annoying Scarlett O’Hara. Left alone to survive on her own, she must quickly learn the skills of running a farm. Her desperation is believable and you are sympathetic with her plight. I imagine many city girls today would be just as desperate if put in a similar situation. Ada’s desperation makes Renée Zellweger as Ruby Thewes all the more interesting. She’s the complete opposite of Ada and her character contrasts Ada’s nicely. Her tough spirit and self sufficient nature are amusing and they make her one of the more endearing characters of the film. (Zellweger won an Academy Award for this role.) Their sister-like relationship is very convincing.

This trio is backed up by an excellent supporting cast. Most notable among them was Natalie Portman as Sara. She is a grieving widow taking care of a sick baby who takes in Inman. Her scenes are incredibly emotional and her character goes through a wide range of changes in a short amount of screentime. It quickly becomes apparent that George Lucas has been wasting her talents in Star Wars. Donald Sutherland also has a brief cameo as Reverend Monroe, the loving father of Ada. Philip Seymour Hoffman is also excellent as the morally bankrupt reverend Veasey. He’s the polar opposite of Ada’s father in every way. Giovanni Ribisi delivers an appropriately freaky performance as the psycho hillbilly Junior.

Besides the excellent cast, the film features some beautiful scenery. Romania substitutes for the Civil War South and it does the job well. The environments are pretty spectacular and they range from swamps to mountains to snowy forests to bloody battlefields.

That leads to the next feature of the film – the bloody, realistic battles. The battle of Petersburg, Virginia is graphically recreated. When the Northern soldiers tunnel under the Southern defenses to plant explosives, the resulting explosion is devastating. However, the Northern soldiers unexpectedly have the tide turned against them. It’s an impressive and memorable real life battle. Smaller fights between Inman and various other soldiers along the way of his quest also offer up some cool action moments.

Cold Mountain also features a wide range of Southern folk music from the era. Arranged by T-Bone Burnett from “O Brother, Where Art Thou”, it is a memorable soundtrack. Listen for music by Sting, Alison Krauss, and many more.

The only drawback of Cold Mountain is that it is depressing. Every single character in the film goes through hell at one point or another. Some survive. Some don’t. Watching characters that you care for be tortured, tormented, or sometimes killed can be an emotionally draining experience. If you’re looking for light entertainment, this movie isn’t for you.

The Extras:
The second disc of this set is jam packed with extras. Here are the highlights:

Commentary by writer/director Anthony Minghella and editor Walter Murch – The commentary by Minghella and Murch is a little dry, but it is informative. It leans a little heavily towards the making of the film and editing as you would expect, but they do provide commentary on the characters and performances.

11 deleted scenes – There are many deleted scenes included here, but a few are particularly noteworthy. One shows reverend Veasey in chains in his hometown and he sees the slave woman he got pregnant passing by. It’s then that he becomes determined to escape and return to her as we see later in the movie. Also shown is Natalie Portman’s character Sara. In the deleted scenes we learn her fate was much darker than what we saw in the theatrical version of the movie. She sings to her baby until it dies, then she ends up committing suicide by shooting herself. This is all done as Inman slaughters a pig. It’s dark and depressing. Another key deleted scene features Inman showing up at Ada’s house only to discover that she’s up in the mountains with Ruby. So you learn that Inman showing up on the mountain at the end wasn’t coincidence. Other deleted scenes are less important, but they are all worth checking out.

“Words & Music of Cold Mountain” Royce Hall Special concert – Like with the music from “O Brother, Where Art Thou”, the soundtrack from this film spawned a concert of its own. The full concert appears to be included here featuring choirs, orchestras, and folk bands. If you liked the music from the film, then you’re going to love this. It is about an hour and a half long.

“Climbing Cold Mountain” – This is one of the most comprehensive “making of” documentaries that I’ve ever seen. Rather than opt for a bunch of short features on various subjects, this hour and a half feature jam packs everything into one presentation. It covers the original novel, the casting, the locations, the music, and more. They even have video footage from their test screenings of the film. It’s that thorough. Behind the scenes shots of many of the key moments in the story are also shown. It’s a bit much to take in all in one sitting, but everything you could possibly want to know about Cold Mountain is shown here.

“A Journey to Cold Mountain” – If the previous making-of featurette is too much for you to take, this shorter, lighter version may be more your speed. It still features behind the scenes footage, but there are a lot more interviews with the cast and crew. Everyone is shown here from Natalie Portman all the way to Jude Law and Nicole Kidman.

“Scared Harp History” – This feature highlights the hymnal songbook used in the film as well as the sound of the congregational singing. A little of the footage is seen in the “Words & Music of Cold Mountain” feature, but this is nice to check out if you don’t want to watch the whole concert.

The Bottom Line:
Cold Mountain is an impressive cinematic display featuring great acting, beautiful scenery, and a compelling love story. However, it is also a very dark tale that may turn off many viewers. Approach with caution.