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COLD MOUNTAIN (2003)
Winner of an Oscar and 13 other awards from 49 nominations, COLD MOUNTAIN is a poignant depiction of the harsh tragedies of the Civil War and its path of devastation wrought on all of 'American soil'. Told from the perspective of a confederate soldier Inman, and his love, Ada Monroe, COLD MOUNTAIN avidly depicts the trials of small town life without the security of men who have gone off to war to face deadly trials of their own.
Written by: Charles Frazier (book) and Anthony Minghella (screenplay).
Directed by: Anthony Minghella.
Genre: Drama, War, Romance.
Tagline: Come back to me.
Rated R for sexuality and violence.
COLD MOUNTAIN opens with a haunting depiction of the violent reality that is the macabre scene of death on a battlefield. It is the middle of the Civil War and the Northern troops have planned a deadly sneak attack on the Southern troop's barracks. An unaware soldier sits idly by, waiting for daybreak and the signal to charge; looking at a picture of his lover for what must be the hundredth time. Carefully, he wraps up the picture in a war-weathered book and places it back in his satchel, and then…
After a series of deadly explosions demolish the Southern barracks, the remaining Confederate soldiers pick up their bloody, war-battered bodies off the rubble of corpses and dirt, and prepare to fight the attacking Yankees. A poignant depiction of the 'innocent boy' brings the haunting reminder of the fragility and the youth of the victims of war. The ironic encounter of African vs. Indian makes an acute political statement about the senseless death and truly colorblindness of war's purpose: on the battlefield death knows no color lines. The shouts of men who are being smashed into the blood-stained muddy water of the battlefield are heard amongst the cries of rage and terror of those standing; those, who will fall as quickly as the rest. Nevertheless the Confederates manage to fend off the Yankees for the time being, that is until nightfall when another sneak attack will claim the lives of more men, and fatally wound the soldier with the portrait of a lady.
The soldier's name is Inman (Jude Law), a local farm boy from the small town of Cold Mountain, South Carolina. A series of flashbacks inform the audience of his initial meeting with the lovely lady in the photo, Miss Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman). New to town, her father relocated to Cold Mountain in hopes that his health would improve. Together Ada and her father reside on Black Mountain, a beautiful farm ran by handfuls of well-treated servants and slaves. As the film moves back and forth developing the past and present narratives in tandem, one sees harrowing depictions of Inman’s struggle to recover from his wound and his desperate attempt to get back to Cold Mountain and his light, Ada.
Meanwhile Ada's narrative begins to unfold, and the audience sees her dire struggle depicted in as much desperation as Inman’s. While Inman traverses field, marsh, and plain to find his way back to Cold Mountain, Ada clings to the hope that her thousands of letters find their way to Inman so that he will here her cries and come back to save her from the lonely state of her soul and the dire state of her town, now overrun by the sinister Teague and his rebel bandits.
Inman's epic journey continues, whereby he encounters lustful ministers, greedy men ready to betray loyalty for a few pennies, desperate women left single and alone for the harsh winter after their husbands were killed in war, Yankee troops on the lookout for Confederate strays, and rebel outlaws looking to roundup Confederate "deserters". Inman, having left his hospital, has been considered a deserter upon his decision to travel to Cold Mountain, despite the fact that he took a bullet to the neck; a fatal injury that should call for immediate dismissal.
Meanwhile Ada is coping with the death of her father. Passing away one rainy afternoon, he has left Ada in charge of Black Mountain and all of its land and servants, without any money for security or pension for the property's employees. Desperate, Ada releases her slaves and servants, and the grounds of Black Mountain run wild. Penniless, Ada finds herself, a gentlewoman of nobility, bound to beg and plead for bread and water despite her indignant pride. Her gentle manner and temperance however, are looked upon with mercy by a few local women who do their best to feed her through the cold. But it isn’t until the raucous Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger), a country tomboy with an unfinished edge, but a tender heart, that Ada begins to find hope in living again. With much difficulty at first, Ada endures the harsh reproaches of the astonished Ruby, who simply can’t believe one would let their property go to such waste. But slowly the women come to understand each other and it isn’t long before the farm is up and running again; leaving the girls to enjoy nightly adventures by book and await on the return of Ada’s love.
After many a local tragedy wrought by the evil Teague, Inman finds his way home, and Ada encounters him in the snowy hills while her and Ruby are hiding out in the woods trying to nurse Ruby’s father back to health. With much emotive release the two lovers claim their declaration of love and consummate their marriage. Finally a hopeful flicker begins to flicker through the icy depression of Cold Mountain. But no sooner has Inman returned than Teague and his men begin their taunts. A series of fights and deaths ensue, with Ada left to ponder at the fate of that gunshot far off in the woods. Has Inman endured the many travesties of a hard journey only to succumb to death at the hands of a rebel? Has Ada's fated future foretold in the wishing well been misinterpreted all this time?
COLD MOUNTAIN is a film built around poignant scenes of breathtaking landscape contrasted by the harsh realities of war and winter’s coming. A silvery voice as pure as snow sings a somber ballad: accurately depicting the heavily personal loss of war. Indian chants draw an ironically acute parallel to the travesty of men and their noble mortality realized in war. COLD MOUNTAIN depicts the morose reality of war’s hardships of both soldier and their waiting lover alike. That said, the film will take you on an emotional journey throughout its entirety,. From compassion, to pity, to sorrow, to rage, to hope, the film covers the entire emotional spectrum and leaves you exhausted upon conclusion. The eerie score and appropriate soundtrack ballads parallel the pathos of the protagonists, Inman and Ada. A truer love story has never been told in such humanity and realism as COLD MOUNTAIN.
Nicole Kidman is absolutely stunning in her role as the desperate noble woman. Her metamorphosis from genteel lady to an autonomous woman is strikingly believable. That said, her counterpart Renee Zellwegger is flawless in her portrayal of the low-class rough and rowdy Ruby Thewes. Renee's portrayal of the sensible, practical, enduring, and comical Ruby was embraced with a zeal and authority that won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. In truth, Ruby Thewes is the saving grace of Ada. Ada’s hope for Inman’s return is what gives her the strength to endure. But Ada's friendship with Ruby gives her a reason to live in his absence, before and after his return. Jude Law does a great job at portraying the desperate soldier, grief-stricken and weathered by circumstance. His silver screen relation with Kidman seemed more than believable; it was not the least bit hard to believe the two’s love for each other sincere, particularly in the shared scenes. Their seemed a comfort and a chemistry there that, despite its professionally contrived status, helped make the love story of Ada and Inman all the more believable, and ultimately, all the more tragic.
By far some of the best scenes are with Renee Zellwegger. Her character serves as a moral milestone for Ada, and, a comic relief for audiences. Without Ruby Thewes the film might have been far too oppressive and tragic in nature to withstand the waning patience of an audience. Nevertheless, Renee's upbeat, gritty performance keeps audiences hooked, even as the narrative slows to build the suspense of the lover's parting. COLD MOUNTAINis a touching film that should be seen by anyone who wants to witness the harrowing reality of war’s lasting effects on people. With our contemporary time allowing a uniquely vivid contrast, the emotions purged and developed in COLD MOUNTAIN are not a far cry off from those felt by all those families who have endured the loss of a soldier these past few years.
Nicole Kidman plays Ada Monroe, the beautiful gentlewoman whose new acquaintance to Cold Mountain will leave her the admirer of the young soldier Inman; a man she will loyally stand by and wait for throughout the harsh years of the Civil War.
Jude Law plays Inman, the local farm boy and Confederate soldier to be, who wins the heart of the coveted Ada, and whose love for her provides him with the strength to endure the trials of the war and his fatal journey home.
Renee Sellweger plays Ruby Thewes, the down-home country girl who won't take no for an answer, won't let a man show her up, and won't let Ada sit idly by and watch her farm and her life go to waist.
Ray Winstone plays Teague, the menacing man who commands control of Cold Mountain after all the local authorities courageously set out for war. Together he and posse wreak havoc and terror on all of Cold Mountain's inhabitants.