“If you are fighting, stop fighting; if you are marching, stop marching. Come back to me.”
An Illusion review by Joan Ellis
Read a book about the Civil War and your imagination does its work.
Watch Ken Burns’ photographs, and the war comes to life through real
faces and real battles. But when
Anthony Minghella tries to recreate that war in “Cold Mountain,” you know
you are watching a movie, not a war.
Although his movie is a good story with a terrific cast, watching it
unfold is like watching “High Noon” – an old fashioned star vehicle that
isn’t supposed to be real.
Ada Munroe (Nicole Kidman) has escaped Charleston’s world of girdles
and propriety to come to a mountain town with her minister father (Donald
Sutherland). Ada and Inman (Jude Law), a shy young local carpenter, exchange a
few words and a stolen kiss on the eve of his leaving for battle. By 1864 Ada
writes, “If you are fighting, stop fighting; if you are marching, stop
marching. Come back to me.”
The movie is the story of his journey.
To their credit Law and Kidman make the love story convincing.
Nicole Kidman’s star is now so bright that her mere presence overwhelms
everything around her. Director
Minghella’s decision not to tone down her beauty in the worst of circumstances
puts the film squarely in the old Hollywood way of doing things.
Kidman’s face and her aura are all golden and peach, and when she is on
screen, the war seems far away.
That’s not the case with Jude Law and Renee Zellweger who have managed
to create and then submerse themselves in interesting characters.
Ray Winstone, Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman,
Eileen Atkins and others hit the mood beautifully.
Renee Zellweger, with her limitless versatility, plays Ruby, a no nonsense mountain woman sent out to help Ada run the farm. She will certainly earn a supporting actress nomination for the role. Jude Law is marvelous as the man who is forever changed. “If there was anything tender in me, it’s gone; I think I’m ruined,” Inman says, and he is. Someone observes, “The land will not heal – too much blood,” and that’s the truth. The South has never healed.
movie opens with a battle scene that uses pyrotechnics worthy of a modern
blockbuster. It is not likely that
even this brutal Virgina battle would fill the screen with fire and body parts.
Director Minghella takes another formidable misstep.
Even if both southerners and northerners were guilty of the rape and
torture of their countrymen and women, there is, I promise you, a prolonged and
disproportionate amount of atrocity here for a two-hour movie about the Civil
War. Both the personal violence and the obligatory graphic sex are out of time
and place. The director,
unfortunately, has mixed his eras up.
The reunion scene with Kidman all in black against the white snow is the final exclamation point to the overdone melodrama. We may bring the sensibilities of 2004 into the theater, but we are watching a movie rooted in the star driven 1940s.
Copyright (c) Illusion
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