Sweeping American Civil War drama based on the novel by Charles Frazier, directed by Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley). Jude Law stars as Inman, a wounded Confederate soldier who is slowly making the perilous journey back to his home town of Cold Mountain in North Carolina, meeting a string of colourful characters along the way (played by actors including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Ray Winstone and Kathy Baker). At home waits Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), the pre-war sweetheart to whom he has vowed to return. In his absence Ada, the shy and reserved daughter of a preacher (Donald Sutherland), has befriended the feisty Ruby (Renée Zellweger), a tough-talking young woman who can work the land as well as any man. Ruby supports Ada both emotionally and practically as she waits for Inman's return - but as the war drags on and her letters go unanswered, Ada finds it increasingly difficult to keep the faith.
, freely adapted from Charles Frazier's beloved bestseller
, boasts an impeccable pedigree as a respectable Civil War love story, offering everything you'd want from a romantic epic--except a resonant emotional core. Everything in this sweeping, Odyssean journey depends on believing in the instant love that ignites during a very brief encounter between genteel, city-bred preacher's daughter Ada (Nicole Kidman) and Confederate soldier Inman (Jude Law), who deserts the battlefield to return, weary and wounded, to Ada's inherited farm in the rural town of Cold Mountain, North Carolina. In an epic (but dramatically tenuous) case of absence making hearts grow fonder, Inman endures a treacherous hike fraught with danger (and populated by supporting players including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and others) while the struggling, inexperienced Ada is aided by the high-spirited Ruby (Renée Zellweger), forming a powerful farming partnership that transforms Ada into a strong, lovelorn survivor.
The film's episodic structure slightly weakens its emotional impact, and it's fairly obvious that director Anthony Minghella is striving to repeat the prestigious romanticism of his Oscar-winning hit The English Patient. For the most part it works, especially in the dynamic performances of Zellweger and Kidman, and the explosive 1864 battle of Petersburg, Virginia, is recreated with violent, percussive intensity. Those who admired Frazier's novel may regret some of the changes made in Minghella's adaptation (the ending is particularly altered), but Cold Mountain remains a high-class example of grand, old-fashioned filmmaking, boosted by star power of the highest order. --Jeff Shannon