Directed by: Anthony Minghella
Written by:Anthony Minghella
Starring: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Donald Sutherland, Ray Winstone, Brendan Gleeson, Kathy Baker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman
Released: January 1, 2004
Grade: A-

Cold Mountain, adapted from the novel by Charles Frazier, is a love story set against the backdrop of the American Civil War.  Those looking for battle scenes and detailed information on this tragic war will not find that here.  The film begins with Inman (Law) barely escaping a massive gunpowder blast on the war front but from there he is transported to a hospital where he will begin his journey home.

During these scenes, Director Anthony Minghella takes us back shortly before the war began.  Inman was a quiet tradesman living in the small town of Cold Mountain.  He was working on the construction of a chapel for the new Reverend (Sutherland), when he first caught glimpse of Ada Monroe (Kidman), the Reverend’s daughter.  There is a definite attraction between the two but both are hesitant at instigating contact.  They soon have no choice when the war breaks out, Inman is forced to leave and as he does so, the two confess their love for each other.  Ada promises to wait at Cold Mountain for his return.

Three years then pass which takes us into the present tense.  Bands of troops roam the countryside in search of “deserters” – those men in hiding who refuse to fight.  Prepared to take his chances, Inman flees from the hospital and begins the long trek to Cold Mountain.  At home, Ada desperately continues to wait although she has fallen on tough times.  Her father has passed away, she has no servants to tend to the farm, the house is a pig-sty and there’s hardly any food to eat.  Help though will soon arrive when a young lady named Ruby (Zellweger) comes to her doorstep offering assistance.  The two will need the comfort of each other as more troubling times lie ahead…

It’s unusual to see a romantic drama where the leading characters spend so much time apart from each other.  It has made it somewhat difficult to create feeling in the audience but Minghella has still done a great job in doing so.  He is helped largely by Jude Law and Nicole Kidman who deliver marvellously passionate performances.  You can sense the hurt as they think of the other so very far away but as they get closer together, you excitedly await the scene where both with finally come together.

The film cost a staggering $83m and thankfully the recent Golden Globe nominations will ensure audiences go out to see the film.  It certainly was a huge financial risk for Miramax but you could not ask for a better crew behind the camera.  Anthony Minghella has assembled the same gifted team which he worked with on his previous two films, The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley.  Gabriel Yared provides a haunting film score, Australian John Seale immaculately captures the setting with his lens, Dante Ferretti has crafted some wonderful production sets, and Walter Murch has brilliantly brought the entire 155 minutes together in the editing room.

Cold Mountain is a little long and some of the secondary characters could have been sliced without detriment to the film.  Natalie Portman plays a single mother and Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a corrupted priest but their talent seems wasted considering their characters serve little purpose.  The same could be said for Jena Malone and Giovanni Ribisi.

The award season is once again in full swing and I can’t help but lick my fingers at the enticing list of films slated for release in the first two months of 2004.  Cold Mountain is not the pick of the bunch but it ranks very highly.