Sunday, April 18, 2004

Cold Mountain a warm beacon
Ervell E. Menezes

Cold Mountain has all the ingredients of a classic
Cold Mountain has all the ingredients of a classic

WHAT was it like to be living at the time of the American civil war in the mid-19th century? When the Yankees overran the Deep South and played havoc not only with the4 soldiers but with civilian lives. Cold Mountain is set in North Carolina and captures the misfortunes of two lives torn apart by the war—Confederate soldier inman (Jude Law)and his beloved Ada (Nicole kidman).

Ada is the well-bred daughter of a preacher who is soon forced to fend for herself in a perilous world while Inman, after being injured crosses the nation to be with the woman he loves. But he has to fend off soldiers and bounty hunters finding unexpected friends and dangerous enemies at every turn. It is an adventure-packed narrative bringing out the cruelty of war and a virtual baptism of fire (also the last war fought on American soil) that marked the birth of the United States. Ada is aided by a feisty drifter named Ruby (Renee Zellweger).

Moving along two fronts, Cold Mountain is an absorbing tale of the savage years when rebels and bounty hunters didn’t hesitate to slit a neck and one could never distinguish between friend and foe. There are a plethora of incidents with Inman’s encounter with a widow and her baby really piercing the heart. Director Anthony Minghella, whose earlier films include The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley churns out an excellent script and his handling of the action is impeccable.

The establishing shots are impressive and the contrast in the two leading characters is well brought out. Even though they have not seen much of each other it is absence that makes the heart grow fonder. "I lost your mother 22 months in marriage but that was enough to last a lifetime," says Ada’s dad. And it looks like Ada is made of the same stuff.

The outdoor locales are charmingly shot by cinematographer John Seale even though snow is not an embellishment for photography. But it is the strength of the narrative that keeps the viewer absorbed right through its 150-minute duration.

Donald Sutherland is rather stilted as the preacher reciting his lines almost schoolboy-like but there are a host of well known performers in cameos like Natalie Portman, kathy Baker and Eileen Atkins but it is Jude Law and Nicole Kidman who are able to keep the film together with brilliant performances, ably supported by Renee Zellweger who is well disguised as the tough Southern woman. Law underplays his part unlike his cameo as the Killer in Road to Perdition but Kidman goes through a whole gamut of emotions, almost Like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.

In the best tradition of the pioneering Acerican films like The Last of the Mohicans this film based on a National Book Award-winning novel by Charles Frazier has all the ingredients of a classic. It shines like a beacon among the poor Hollywood products of today. Don’t miss it.

This feature was published on March 14, 2004