out of Five
Running time: 153
Beautifully photographed, moving drama, with impressive performances from its three leads and a terrific supporting cast. It’s still too long, though.
After The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley, it appears that Anthony Minghella is Hollywood’s “Go To” Guy when it comes to classy literary adaptations. His latest film is no exception: adapted from Charles Frazier’s award-winning novel by Minghella himself, Cold Mountain is a beautifully shot, impressively acted, moving drama marred only by a buttock-challenging running time and a couple of dodgy scenes near the beginning.
Set during the American Civil War, the film stars Jude Law as Inman, a
wounded confederate soldier attempting to make his way home to Cold
Mountain, a mountain community in North Carolina. Waiting for him is his pre-war sweetheart Ada Munroe, who is attempting to revive her father’s farm with the aid of a feisty drifter named Ruby Thewes (Reneé Zellweger). However, the two women also have to fend off the attentions of the vicious Home Guard Officers, played by Ray Winstone and an unrecognisable Charlie Hunnam.
Stunningly Beautiful Cinematography
As you might expect from the director of The English Patient, the cinematography (courtesy of Minghella’s regular cameraman, John Seale) is stunningly beautiful – the film was shot in Romania and the harsh landscapes form an impressive and symbolic backdrop to the action.
The acting is excellent, particularly from Reneé Zellweger, who completely steals the movie from under the noses of her more glamorous co-stars, with a genuinely loveable performance in which she somehow manages to be both the comic relief and the emotional, warm-hearted core of the film. If there’s any justice at all, she’ll pick up a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and it will be richly deserved.
Terrific Supporting Cast
The film is also crammed with terrific supporting actors in glorified
cameos, including: Philip Seymour Hoffman as a disgraced preacher with an eye for the ladies; Natalie Portman as a scared young mother; Jena Malone as an enterprising ferry-woman; Giovanni Ribisi as a farmer with a cow problem and Brendan Gleeson as Ruby’s fiddle-playing father. Winstone is also good, playing a thoroughly evil, genuinely scary character (typecast again), though his accent wobbles a little at times.
There are some great scenes here, notably the stunning opening on the
battlefield, when Inman sustains his injury, but also several of Inman’s encounters and practically every scene with Zellweger, especially those involving Gleeson.
Unfortunately, there are also some dodgy scenes (the bird trapped in the church, for example) and it’s fair to say that the film could have comfortably lost a good twenty minutes from its opening. Similarly, some of the later action scenes are poorly shot, so that you can’t really tell what’s going on (reputedly, the film underwent a number of re-edits).
These minor quibbles aside, however, Cold Mountain is an enjoyable, moving drama with superb performances and stunning photography. Consequently, it’ll almost certainly feature prominently amongst this year’s Oscar nominations. Recommended.