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Miramax Pictures presents
Cold Mountain (2003)

"I imagine God is weary of being called down on both sides of an argument."
- Inman (Jude Law)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: July 07, 2004

Stars: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zelweger
Other Stars: Ray Winstone, Kathy Baker, Giovani Ribisi, Cillian Murphy, Jack White, Natalie Portman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone, Donald Sutherland, Brendan Gleeson
Director: Anthoyn Minghella

MPAA Rating: R for violence and sexuality
Run Time: 02h:35m:14s
Release Date: June 29, 2004
UPC: 786936242164
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A BAA- B+

DVD Review

Cold Mountain has most of the ingredients to be a terrific and epic motion picture achievement. Yet something gets lost; the film turns out to be a collection of small characters that the viewer will likely care about more than the two protagonists around which the story is built.

The central plot is the romance of Ada (Kidman) the daughter of a Charleston, South Carolina preacher (Sutherland) who has moved to Cold Mountain because of his health. When Ada meets Inman (Law), their eyes lock and an unspoken passion is suddenly present. But soon, Inman must leave to fight in the Civil War, and shortly after, Ada's father passes away and she is left to tend to the farm on her own, something that will prove very difficult. Eventually, Ada is introduced to Ruby (Zellweger), a wildly drawn character that is soon tending to numerous chores around Ada's farm in exchange for food and lodging. The women are visited by Teague (Winstone), the leader of the home guards, (local men dispatched to capture deserters) and Teague has his eyes set on Ada's land since he assumes Inman is never coming home. Meanwhile, making his way back to Cold Mountain, Inman is introduced to an assorted group of secondary characters including Sara (Portman), a young mother who is victimized by Union soldiers and Reverend Veasey (Hoffman), a philandering minister.

Adapted from the bestselling novel by Charles Frazier and directed by Anthony Minghella (The English Patient), Cold Mountain is a stunningly beautiful and impressive-looking film, but on the whole, it is a huge let down. Minghella handles the adaptation well, and does his best to weave together two parallel stories while juggling a handful of secondary characters, interweaving a large number of flashbacks in the first act.

But for a film that revolves around an impassioned love story, the chemistry between Ada and Inman is strangely lackluster. We're of course expected to care for the characters and bear their hardships with them, but we only know that they are in love because the script tells us so. Minghella's does a fine job of crafting the characters on an individual basis—Inman, for example, is given some truly magnificent set pieces—while also providing a showcase for the acting abilities of Law and Zellweger, but the love story fails.

Cold Mountain picks up its pace at the start of its second hour with the introduction of the character of Ruby, who provides some much needed energy and allows us to forget about the stale romance between the protagonists. What is so impressive about Zellweger's work is that she takes a character that could have easily been forgettable— or over the top—and injects the entire film with humor, wit, and sorely needed energy the story otherwise lacks.

Cold Mountain had been in development for several years and was at one point set to star the likes of Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, or Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Inman, and Sydney Pollack in the director's chair. So when the film was announced with its final cast and an $85 million budget (the largest in Miramax history), expectations were understandably high, and for the most part, Anthony Minghella and his crew deliver. The cinematography by John Seale looks absolutely fantastic, and the film boasts a touching and melodic score by Gabriel Yared. On a technical level, Cold Mountain is simply one of the best films of the last several years.

While it was largely ignored during awards season, Zellweger and Law were rightfully singled out with nominations for their outstanding performances, each giving what is easily their best work to date. Kidman, though, feels out of place as she moves from one scene to another with no real spark or energy, and her scenes with Law feel sluggish when they should bristle with intensity. As I mentioned above, a large boost of support comes from the actors in secondary roles, including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and Giovani Ribisi.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Cold Mountain is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The film is terrific to look at and the cinematography is of the sort that any still would likely make a lovely picture, and thankfully the transfer does the beauty of the film justice. Sharpness and detail are each of amazing quality with an unbelievable film like look that graces the transfer. Colors are rich and solid, especially the snow-covered ground in some scenes that comes off as crisp with no bleeding. There are a few moments of mild edge enhancement.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The film is presented with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS sound mixes. A head-to-head comparison proves the DTS track to be a tad richer with a more enveloping sound field while also being a little more aggressive. Dialogue is crisp and clear while the left and right speakers do a terrific job of reinforcing the tremendous score. The rear speakers are used quite often whether it be during the stunning battle sequence that opens the film or the quieter moments back on Ada's farm. The mix is always active in some way or another.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
11 Deleted Scenes
3 Documentaries
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Anthony Minghella and editor Walter Murch
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Cold Mountain comes as a two-disc release with a commentary track by director Anthony Minghella and editor Walter Murch gracing the first platter. The pair talk at length about the harsh shooting conditions in Romania as well as the seemingly neverending quest to bring the film to the big screen. Minghella is a very well spoken gentleman, as is Murch, and their subdued and smart commentary is interesting for the entire length. Other topics covered include the large cast, editing the film to keep a tight story structure, and the overall tone of the film.

Placing the second disc into your player opens up more information about the making of Cold Mountain than anyone is likely to expect. First is the extraordinary documentary titled Climbing Cold Mountain, a 74-minute look at the making of the film from creation to completion and it is amazing in its depth of information. The piece looks at the struggles of location shooting, how production designers built the sets from scratch, and also how some of the more epic sequences were filmed. We also get a peek into the casting, costuming, and location scouting. This is as interesting a documentary as I have seen in quite some time.

A more condensed version of the above-mentioned piece can be found with A Journey to Cold Mountain, a shortened look at the production of the film that runs a tad over 30 minutes. Cast and crew offer their insights into the making of the film while we rehash all of the stories about locations, casting, and adapting the novel for the big screen. The Words and Music of Cold Mountain is a 90-minute look at the music of the film, presented as a performance, and features interviews with the producers and musicians that contributed to the film. It is an interesting piece, but after a while it becomes repetitive.

Eleven deleted scenes are offered in anamorphic widescreen and for the most part each was rightfully excised from the finished product. Some scenes do add a tad more emotional weight but they would have been adding more length to an already overlong film. There are four storyboard comparisons that feature the entire opening battle sequence.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Cold Mountain is nothing short of amazing on a technical level and it offers some of the best performances of 2003, but overall, the film feels empty. Kidman is greatly miscast, and the central story is lost in favor of a collection of much more interesting supporting characters. An uneven effort.

 


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