The success or failure of Anthony Minghella's 'Cold Mountain' as a movie and its impact on viewers really depends on how much they buy into the affections of confederate soldier Inman (the endearing Jude Law), and his love Ada (an apathetic Nicole Kidman). The answer to that question is more important that you might think if you consider that both of them spend most of their time apart, after a brief initial spark of romance; Inman off fighting in the American civil war, Ada tending to her vary farm in Cold Mountain, North Carolina, after her father Reverend Monroe (Donald Sutherland) passes away.
Cold Mountain thus becomes a parable of love enduring the tribulations of an extensive separation during which people change or change those that they come in contact with.
In the opening moments we witness a key turning point in the war in a grimy, gripping and gritty carnage of violence and blood. This sequence, visually the most impressive, is only the first of many stunners, which includes some truly breathtaking vistas of greenery and eventually snow, an indication of the movie's somber turn towards the end.
Law's trek back home is instigated by the endless letters he receives from Ada. On his soulful journey, which forms the bulk of the running time juxtaposed with Ada's suffering at her farm, he meets enough people to fill a tale of its own. That all of these individuals are played by mostly well known stars may be a little distracting creating the excitement of watching guests on a talk show who take away the limelight for short durations. These include some memorable turns, such as Natalie Portman's poignant and lonely single mother, and some odd one's (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Giovanni Ribisi's appearances)
Like Minghella's 'The English Patient', flashbacks form an important component of the story, which is once again based on a book. This aspect of it being 'based on a bestseller' has already made it an easy target amongst cynics who despise its 'packaged for awards consideration' feel. True, Kidman is as lifeless here as those trailers prepare us for, but there are many other good performances, especially those churned out by Jude Law, as authentic here as any indigenous American would probably have been and Kidman's gutsy, tom boyish assistant on the farm, Ruby, played by Renee Zellweger whose performance here possesses such gusto that all around her pale in comparison.
Some of the shorter incidents that lead to the conclusion are muddled in their significance and the end probably could have done without the rogue killers' angle, which felt misplaced amid the unanticipated feel of the shorter vignettes. Though the separation of the two leads proves taxing when stretched for the length that it is, it remains believable for the most part, owing to the natural chemistry that they share (yes, despite Kidman's lack of abilities) making this an engaging period drama. - Faizan Rashid