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When Ada Monroe's (Nicole Kidman) widower minister father (Donald Sutherland) moves from Charleston to a small southern village, she briefly meets young Inman Jude Law), and each senses an instant attraction. They barely have time for a first kiss when Inman is off to war as a Confederate soldier. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and although most of their letters never reach the recipient, they long for each other amidst the terrifying circumstances of the war. Inman is badly wounded, Ada is left poor and hungry when her father dies. Into her life comes young and pragmatic Ruby (Renee Zellweger), to show by example what a young woman can achieve besides knowing the gentle arts, with the help of nature and her own hands. As Inman tries to head home to Ada at Cold Mountain, the war continues to interrupt his journey, and the hatred bred of the war exacts its vicious price on all of them.

Review by Louise Keller:
Beautifully transferred to DVD, this epic love story set against the unforgiving backdrop of the Civil War is the miraculous blending of harsh, physical conflict with the most romantic and poetic of longings. Lovingly adapted from Charles Frazier's novel, Anthony Minghella has structured the screenplay flawlessly, allowing the storytelling rhythms from flashback to the present, back and forth, to reach its crescendo, as Inman and Ada are reunited and become one.

It's a story about courage, loyalty and valour, as these two opposites are tested on their physical and spiritual journeys. From the decorative idle life of a lady whose sole purpose is to use her feminine wiles ('I can embroider, but can't darn'), to a survivor whose physical toils enable her to live on the land, Nicole Kidman's Ada is breathtaking. The epitome of femininity, Kidman's Scarlett O'Hara-like transformation evolves naturally, as necessity becomes the mother of invention. Her breathy narration that reveals the intense passions of her heart, links us emotionally to Jude Law's Inman, whose unerring determination counters obstacle after obstacle.

When we first meet Inman, he is a man of few words, but the thousands of wordless moments between he and Ada manifest themselves to become as priceless as a bag of diamonds. What appears to be a clumsy courtship escalates into an obsessive and all-consuming emotional hunger that connects them absolutely.

While this is not a civil war film, the scenes of terrifying authenticity in the battlefields, are crucial in our understanding the impact of this bloodiest of conflicts in America and the ensuing state of mind. We are in the bunkers with the soldiers as the underground explosion's force shakes the soldiers' world, but learn that life as a deserter is just as treacherous. Renee Zellweger's no-nonsense Ruby is a gem. Hers is the tangible, earthy character that becomes the catalyst that sets Ada onto her path of survival. From her unforgettable dramatic entrance, when she picks up a troublesome rooster and rings its neck without so much as blinking an eye, Ruby brings Ada down to earth with a shock. But as their friendship grows, it is clear that the exchange goes both ways, and Ruby's eyes are opened up to the possibility of dreaming.

A hand-picked cast including Donald Sutherland as Ada's father, Philip Seymour Hoffman as the lecherous pastor on the run, Natalie Portman as the abandoned young mother, Ray Winstone's vicious guard who mercilessly hunts down deserters and Brendan Gleeson's jovial fiddler (and Ruby's father) add substance to a string of crucial supporting roles. Visually, Cold Mountain dazzles, through the keen cinematic eye of Minghella's Oscar winning collaborator John Seale, taking us from the battlefields to the majestic vistas and beauty of the mountains, forests and valleys.

It's a joy to become involved in every intricate detail, on which such meticulous attention has been spent - the costumes, the production design, and Gabriel Yared's music that captures the essence of every emotion. An involving, moving and magnificent production that deserves every accolade, Cold Mountain is consummate filmmaking at its best.

The 12 deleted scenes on the DVD are of marginal interest, but have limited appeal.

Published: July 1, 2004

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CAST: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger, Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Giovanni Ribisi, Brendan Gleeson, Charlie Hunnam, Ray Winstone, Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone, Kathy Baker, Ray Winstone, Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone

DIRECTOR: Anthony Minghella

SCRIPT: Anthony Minghella (novel by Charles Frazier)

RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen; 2.35:1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes


DVD RELEASE: July 7, 2004

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