“In the waning days of the American Civil War, a wounded soldier embarks on a perilous journey back home to Cold Mountain, North Carolina to reunite with his sweetheart.”

Director: Anthony Minghella
Writers: Charles Frazier, Anthony Minghella
Staring: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger, Brendan Gleeson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi, Donald Sutherland, Ray Winstone, Kathy Baker, Charlie Hunnam
Rated: R
Release Date: December 25, 2003

I have a bit of a personal story with this movie. When I was younger, I saw this movie poster absolutely everywhere in video stores I went. In my primary rental spot Video World, I swear this movie was front and center for over a year. It had beautiful people on the cover and was about war, so I was all about it. I never got to Cold Mountain (2003) when I was younger, but finally, after nearly two decades, I finally got to see Cold Mountain in all its glory.

Also, I am writing this after seeing this movie almost two months ago? I have had my thoughts jotted out in my notebook now for a long time, so no time like the far too-late to finally talk about Cold Mountain.

In the waning days of the American Civil War, W.P. Inman (Jude Law) is enlisted in the Confederate army just as things are beginning to crumble for the south. Following a uncommon Southern victory, Inman is sent out on a killing mission to find Union soldiers but ends up being shot by his won men. This friendly fire miscue is the final straw to break Inman’s back and he immediately deserts the army and begins heading back to his hometown, Cold Mountain.

What’s waiting for him at home? The love of his life, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman). The pair made eyes at each other when Ada first moved to Cold Mountain with her father, the Reverend Monroe (Donald Sutherland). Through flashbacks we see the shy Inman become betwixted by Ada, and the feeling is mutual in the heart of the preacher’s daughter. Inman must travel through the woods and backroads of the Appalachian area to reunite with Ada and rekindle the fiery passion they could only share in longing stares and unsaid words.

While Inman is stumbling through the wilderness, there is the parallel story of Ada living vacantly in Cold Mountain. After the passing of her father, Ada is left to tend the farm that her father inherited when they moved to the isolated town. The crops are failing and the fences are crumbling, but Ada finds a friend in Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger). Together they begin building their new home together anew, all while dancing around the troubles at home.

Cold Mountain is an incredibly formulaic. Really, to a tee. It is a soap opera stretched out to almost three hours long set in a time and setting wrought for thematic exploration. The movie is based off the 1997 award-winning book Cold Mountain, written by Charles Frazier. The movie plays out like a book in the way it flip-flops between Inman and Ada’s point of view. The vignettes each character go through are very reminiscent of chapters in a book. Cold Mountain was made perfectly for the DVD scene selection menu.

The rigid staircase feeling plot both works for and and hurts Cold Mountain. With how long the movie is and the duel path story being told, the back-and-forth does break it up and forces you to look at the screen and pay attention when the setting changes. But with that being said, once you get stuck in a rather poor story, then you know you are stuck there until it runs its course. This is where Ada’s storyline really falters because everything before Ruby enters the picture is tough to watch. Kidman is playing a character that really can not fend for herself and its painfully obvious. It hurts.

Everyone is in Cold Mountain (2003). Everyone. One of the many recognizable names in the movie is Natalie Portman, and she is in my favorite scene of the movie. Inman has just escaped the grasp of a Home Guard group and is recently rehabbed by a kind, elderly women. He then meets Sara, played by Natalie Portman. Sara is a single mother raising her infant child alone. While she is hosting Inman and being a kind human, three union soldiers come and bang on Sara’s door demanding food. They begin harassing Sara and two of the three try to rape Sara. The one non-asshole solider (played by Cillian Murphy) tries to keep the baby warm and is spared by Inman, but Sara kills him.

This scene is the most tense in Cold Mountain, and it shows how nobody is a good guy. Even that “good side” of the war still is marred with evil people. It proves that no matter what side of the track you are on, you can still have the devil on your shoulder screaming in your ear. It also shows how the innocents caught in the middle of the war get stamped with evil necessities in order to survive.

Alongside Portman in the cast are Brendan Gleeson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Giovanni Ribisi, Ray Winstone, Charlie Hunnam, Jack White, and Ethan Suplee. There are an absolute crazy amount of recognizable faces in Cold Mountain. Every story within the story will have a face that you recognize.

Between the cast, the story, and the themes explored in Cold Mountain, I think it is safe to proclaim this movie as OSCAR BAIT. RAZZLE DAZZLE. GET YOUR TUXES READY. COLD MOUNTAIN IS DEFINITELY CLEANED UP AT THE OSCARS, RIGHT???

Cold Mountain was nominated for seven Academy Awards at the 2004 Oscars. Jude Law earned a nomination for Best Actor, and Renée Zellweger won her first of two Oscars for Best Supporting Actress. Cold Mountain also picked up nominations in Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, and Original Song, twice.

I am grateful that the screenplay was not nominated. Thank god. That would have made me upset.

What is also upsetting is that Anthony Minghella, the director and writer of Cold Mountain, did not have a great chance to show his talent. Minghella died at the age of 54 due to a hemorrhage. In a short movie career, Minghella (who looks a lot like Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin in Daredevil), is only credited with directing nine movies.

Among the select few are The English Patient (1996), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and Cold Mountain. What a run.

The English Patient was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and the film won nine. The Talented Mr. Ripley was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Jude Law for Best Supporting Actor. And as mentioned, Cold Mountain was nominated for seven Oscars. Minghella seemed to have a magic touch, but his vibrance was taken too soon.

Cold Mountain is by no means a perfect movie. I would not call it a masterpiece either. If you need a comparison, think something like The Bridge Of Spies (2015), Da 5 Bloods (2020) or Defiance (2008). The story itself is fairly straight forward, but there are layers to the story that add some sort of depth to it. All these movies are well made, well crafted and well intended. They don’t light the world on fire in terms of excitement, but they share a formula that works.

Grand scale, grand scope, grand ambition. Cold Mountain doesn’t a climactic peak of quality that everyone involved expected it to, but it does result in a gorgeous hike and a fulfilling experience. Maybe you’ll be asking for the hike to end 20 minutes sooner, but you are going to finish the journey regardless.

A random fun fact to end my ramblings on Cold Mountain. Brendan Gleeson can play string instruments well, and he did his own playing in the movie. We see that talent did not diminish over two decades because he did his own playing in The Banshees Of Inisherin (2022).


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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