Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cold Mountain. A-


Cold Mountain is another one of those movies that had me thinking before I saw it: I can't believe I still haven't seen this. It's one of the first movies I knew about when I slowly started to be interested in movies. Now granted, that interest really only meant looking at the movie posters in the newspaper, but the image of Kidman, Law, and Zellwenger, faces side by side, still brings back strong memories. Cold Mountain, based off the Charles Frazier book I haven't read, faces the difficult task of being a love story with only a small amount of time to show why it is one. The two central characters, Inman (Law) and Ada Monroe (Kidman) meet when Monroe and her father arrive in the town of Cold Mountain. Their love is instantaneous, and their first kiss, a memorable, perpetual smooch, occurs just as Inman is heading off to fight in the Civil War (on the Confederate side). So this is a love we don't quite understand because it's so underdeveloped, but we have to trust it because the whole movie is based on these two characters getting by to see each other again. And I actually liked that aspect of the movie. So often, romances begin with two characters disdaining one another, and then slowly reaching acceptance before realizing they're madly in love. Cold Mountain is devoid of any of that drama. It's quick and real, and really sometimes hard to believe only because we're not used to it. But there's much more to the movie than just that. The purpose of the film is unity in love, but to get their the characters must face the toils of the time. For Ada, it's surviving without a man, and for Inman, it's navigating the rough terrain of an America soaked in blood. Both stories are compelling and beautifully wrought. Inman's is a more traditional adventure tale, full of strange, sad, and evil characters, gun battles, and the constant struggle of survival. Ada's is more psychological because she must stay in one place and wait, dealing with great anxiety while taking on the responsibilities she never saw coming. She goes from being a relatively boring urbane dame to a rather cool, rough,wilderness woman who figures out how to use a gun. This is all grand and epic, made with traditional earnestness by Anthony Minghella (who also made The English Patient). On flip side, there's a really silly attempt to create villains in the form of a group of Confederates seeking out and killing deserters. It did make the movie more exciting, but it also came across as contrived (though there is a great scene concerning them and some musicians that was quite moving and tragic). Cold Mountain uses convention, but in the end it makes sure it's a movie measured by its distinctive qualities. It's not quite up there with The English Patient, but few movies are. This is every bit as good as I hoped it would be.

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