Cold Mountain

January 28, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

At the start of the Civil War, countless men rushed to the front lines to defend their land, their beliefs, and their futures. A lot of these men left behind wives, children, and other family members and loved ones, who had to wait for potential returns. Of course, these men promised to come back alive, but few were able to keep that promise. Inman (Jude Law) has been in the battle since it began, leaving the love of his life, Ada (Nicole Kidman) behind. While Inman took up arms and charged into bloody, ruthless conflicts, Ada tried to live as normal, which included running her father’s farm, no simple task. The two exchanged letters often when Inman first left, but the letters were less frequent as time passed, then stopped all together. Ada would still send them out, but Inman never replied, which shook her to the bone. She has no idea if he is alive or dead, which puts even more strain on her day to day abilities. But some help arrives in the form of Ruby (Renee Zellwegger), a drifter who lends a hand and proves to be a good friend. At the same time, Inman struggles with his wounds, but is determined to return home to Ada. The path is long and dotted with danger, but he pushes ahead with only her on his mind. Can he somehow brave the path and be reunited with Ada, or will she be forced to move on without him?

This movie was engineered to win Oscars, but out of numerous nominations, Cold Mountain only took home one golden statue. The movie also rolled in almost one hundred million dollars in ticket sales, but with an eighty-three million dollar budget, the profit margin wasn’t that impressive. So is Cold Mountain just another Miramax vanity piece, or does the film manage to be better than another test audience fueled cinematic experiment? I didn’t expect much from Cold Mountain, given the cast and overblown reviews, but I did think there was solid potential. I am a sucker for civil war movies, plus the epic battles drew me in, so I went to see Cold Mountain. I admit, this wasn’t as bad as I had braced myself for, but the film could have been much better. The cast is one of the drawbacks, with one of the most laughable Oscars wins of all time, as Renee Zellwegger is mediocre at best, but the Miramax ties won her a statue. Nicole Kidman and Jude Law are better, but this project seems to be one better suited for unknowns. The overload of stars lessens the dramatic impact, at least to a noticeable degree. But the emotional manipulation holds up well and the big budget was well used, as production values are excellent. I wouldn’t call Cold Mountain a deep epic, but it was a fun watch, if just for all the visuals and production magic. Miramax has done a great job with this release too, so if you’re interested, give Cold Mountain a chance.

The cast of Cold Mountain is impressive, with such stars as Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Brendan Gleeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eileen Atkins, Donald Sutherland, and Natalie Portman involved. But the one who managed to gain the lion’s share of attention was Renee Zellwegger, who isn’t behind the film’s finest performance. As usual, Miramax launched a massive campaign to land Oscars for its stars, even as some studios pointed out how more talented actors would be denied as a result. The assault worked as usual, but only to an extent, as Zellwegger’s win was the lone one for Cold Mountain. I wouldn’t call Zellwegger’s turn a bad one, but she seems ill prepared and isn’t that remarkable. She looks good though and is passable, thanks to the numerous skilled performers around her. I did notice her solid chemistry with costar Kidman, which helped balance out her flaws. I like Zellwegger a lot, but she got in over her head here and sadly, she was rewarded for a lackluster performance. A decent turn? Yes. But not an Oscar level effort and not one that deserved as much praise as was given. Other films with Zellwegger include Me, Myself & Irene, Jerry Maguire, Empire Records, The Whole Wide World, White Oleander, and of course, Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Video: How does it look?

Cold Mountain is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. As expected, Miramax has supplied a top notch treatment here, impressive work. The source print is pristine and shows no grain, which means the visuals come across in sharp and ever impressive form. The colors stream across the screen in vivid hues and no signs of flaws, while flesh tones seem natural and consistent also. No issues in terms of contrast either, as black levels are razor sharp and no visible detail loss is evident. The transfer is also free from compression errors, which leaves me to score this one with the highest possible numbers. This movie needed the excellence in visuals too, given the complex, big budget set pieces involved.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio here is given the deluxe treatment as well, with dual 5.1 surround tracks in Dolby Digital and DTS forms. I found both mixes to be excellent in all respects, but the DTS option shows some edge in a few scenes. But on the whole, both tracks come across in fantastic form and in truth, either would be a perfect choice. The surrounds are used to effective ends, but not always in an obvious fashion, as subtle audio seems to rule this mix. The musical score is well treated also, with a rich and immersive presence throughout the running time. I heard no problems in terms of dialogue either, as the vocals were clean and crisp from start to finish. This one contains not one, but two superb audio tracks and whichever format you prefer, you’re covered with this release. This release also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

A lot of two disc Special Editions are little more than promotional fluff, but this is not one of those releases. The first disc kicks off with audio comments from director Anthony Minghella and editor Walter Murch, which proves to be worth a listen. The track isn’t all technical in scope, but you do learn a lot about how epic films are produced. Murch adds a lot to the session also, a sort of moderator even at times. On the second disc, we find Climbing Cold Mountain, an extensive look behind the scenes of Cold Mountain. This is an in depth documentary that runs over an hour and wastes little time, so this is not promotional filler, not even close. This piece follows the production from start to finish, one of the better behind the scenes pieces I have seen in a while. You can also view a half hour promotional featurette, but don’t expect more than the usual kind interviews and basic promotional elements. The Words & Music of Cold Mountain is a ninety minute celebration of Cold Mountain, live at Royce Hall. You’ll hear excerpts from the novel, hear some of the film’s music, and see an interview with the film’s director. A nice touch and one that adds a lot of value to an already loaded release. This release also includes storyboard comparisons, some deleted scenes, and a look at the songbook that inspired the music of Cold Mountain, so all in all, a totally packed Special Edition.

Disc Scores