Cold Mountain (2003)

Connecting with someone is a special part of life, describing that connection can sometimes take a lifetime to do. The connection, though a word, embodies something far more complex. The movie Cold Mountain gets high ratings in vieue mosaic because it captures the connection between two people and shows what words are unable to describe. “How would you describe the sky?” is a line in the movie, as it sets the tone that describing complex feelings and connections can’t easily be done with one or two words. It usually takes the retelling of a story, or showing something complex to get across the idea that exist in a singular form.

Plot: Man vs Man; Man vs Nature

Synopsis: A drama focusing on the love and loss the civil war brought to a small town on a mountain. There are many layers to any war movie. War is an endless onion that can be taken in whole or peeled down to any level imaginable to see how destructive and life changing it is. Cinematicaly, war offers various forms of Us vs Them. The reality of war is that there is no them, it’s only us. We fight against each other, brother against brother.  The American Civil War was a shining example of that. Yankees vs Confederates, Us vs Them, when in reality they were all the same family. The onion can be peeled even deeper, town vs town, neighbor vs neighbor, father vs daughter.

Who should watch this movie: Movie buffs, drama lovers, and suspense lovers.

Ratings:

Director: 9/10

Acting: 10/10

Screenplay: 9/10

Vieue Mosaic: 9/10

Screenplay review:

Boy meets girl. They like each other, but are quite awkward and bumble through the social formalities society deems proper to express it to each other. In most circumstances, that’s ok. In time, they will come around and be comfortable enough to utter the right words. Although, if such a couple were to exist in say, 1862, ohh… the timing just really isn’t on their side. Cold Mountain sets up such a couple. Ada and Inman meet and sort of bumble through the formalities of the “proper” boy meets girl protocol. What is worse is they really don’t know how to even describe what they feel for one other. How do you describe a Hawk soaring through the sky? There is a connection between them that is torn apart all too quickly. Why should it even matter? The movie leaves a big question mark on what exactly is their status together? The direct answer is “nothing”, but the evidence says “everything”.

That is a tricky screen play to write, and it doesn’t just get easier because it came from a book. Although, coming from a book, you have a pretty good shot at telling the story right. This is why I have no sympathy for horrible movies that came from books. Connecting the dots in a seamless fashion and knowing what to cut and what to leave in is difficult. Knowing what you can visually reproduce from a book, from what you can’t is a skill lacking in Hollywood. Cold Mountain not only connects scenes that allow for the feeling to be brought across, it gets more engrossing and interesting as time goes on.  Anthony Minghella should give lessons.

Director review:

Anthony Minghella was allowed to bring his vision to light of what constituted a cinematic display of the word “connection”.  The music was also beautifully done, and timed correctly with the feel of the movie. In some cases, I felt similarities with the Last of the Mohicans, except the score had slightly more variety. He also understood the use of  visual effects. This was probably one of the biggest influences of the vieue mosaic score.  I cannot stress enough that more does not equal better, better equals better.

The literal mosaic done in the well was a perfect, and ever so slight, dash of visual effects that enabled the movie to tie in some of the more emotionally powerful parts of the movie. The timing of everything was superb, although I feel flashbacks isn’t his strong suit.  The intro did not catch my interest as much as I believe it should. That was quite an epic setup for an introduction, and I feel was executed in an ok fashion. That’s ok, because the movie became clearer and more interesting as it progressed, which is better than having a blast introduction and a boring movie. I believe Minghella is very skilled at personal relationships, and not as skill at more epic scenes. Case in point, during the climatic intro, the most memorable thing was the black and native American meeting on the battle field. Even though that scene was for a small moment, that personal scene and it’s meaning struck harder than the entire war scene. Again, I’m much more a fan of that, then the other way around.

As far as flash backs, and flash forwards, that is very difficult thing to do and keep an audience interested. Just to put my personal opinion out there, Catch-22 is the pinnacle of flash backs or forwards. There is no book, or movie, I have ever viewed that can match flash backs the way Catch-22 did them. I do understand the need for Cold Mountain, since the book was tailored that way, and appreciate the director quickly tapering that off so as not to distract from the movie.

Actor review:

With an all star cast you expect an all star performance, and you get every penny of it in Cold Mountain. Where to start??

Nicole Kidman (Ada Monroe) had the brunt of the acting to do. She had to express a lot of frustration, confusion, hurt, sadness, loneliness, determination, survival, and most importantly, hope. That is quite a handful, but she did it all quite well, and with a shaky southern belle accent on top of it. Not bad, bravo. I think my favorite had to be when she knocked on Inman’s door and he wasn’t quite dressed. The awkwardness of her “oh god, um… now what?” demeanor was priceless.  As was her desperateness to survive, her fear, and her connection with her bff Ruby Thewes. (were there bff’s in the 19th century?)

Renee Zellweger (Ruby Thewes) was quite a wild one. Understandably, with a back story such as hers, you expect one of two things to happen. Either she was gonna be a survivor or gonna be dead. Renee played a good survivor. An emotional survivor first and foremost.  That’s what made her so tuff, outspoken, and knowledgeable about core things you need to live. Her love hate relationship with her father was on point as well. Her demeanor contrasted with her sassy words that led you to understand how much she truly hated the fact that she loved her daddy so much.

Jude Law (Inman) impressed very well in the movie too. I still get flash backs and nightmares every now and then of him in eXistenZ (shutter), but we all have those mistakes, right? Though Law had far less emotional range he had to play, and more progressive roles he had to play. Physically wounded and exhausted, yet still with the mental trepidation to be an outlaw and pursue something you don’t know what, and you don’t know why. He had to show, in action, the same things Kidman had to show in emotions. Except add killing. Yea, he had to kill people too.  Thank goodness somewhere in 1999 early 2000’s he took acting lessons seriously, or this could have gone wrong, but it went very right.  Combined with good timing from the director, he employed many subtle technique’s in every scene from start to finish that added suspense to the over all story line.

Natalie Portman (Sara) played a very disturbing character. Her every moment on scene underscored some of the very dark layers of skin that you come across when peeling the onion of war. There is death in war, and as much as is brought out in the book The Count of Monte Cristo, the dead no longer have anything to worry about, the living, however, feel the horror of the dead, because they still have life. Portman played a character with terrible losses, but in a silver lining she also had a baby boy who represented a future life. Or perhaps a future death.  Her hysteria and emotional abyss underscored some very good acting on her part, and possibly some therapy she may have needed to get past production.

Full Synopsis (Spoilers)

The intro turkey shoot scene definitely was a nice change of suspense. Where in one hand you felt bad for the Confederate soldiers about to be blown up and trampled on, to feeling bad for the Union soldiers caught in their own trap. The native American facing the black American scene gave a quick reminder of the onion layers war has. Whether either one of them would ultimately benefit with either victor was irrelevant, the enemy of my enemy, is my bro.

I raised an eyebrow to the flash back awkwardness, and another crinkle to the the awkwardness of Ada and Inman meeting. Why him? Honestly, a lady is told she could have any man except one, and that’s the one she wanted to talk to? In all the fictional stories in all the world, a woman’s desire to taste the forbidden fruit has got to be the most believable.

I appreciated their banter. He told her that tomorrow she won’t even remember his name. I know I have uttered those same sentiments throughout my life, so I know what that means. When words are lacking, action must take its place. I do believe him grabbing her and kissing her had to be the catalyst that solidified their connection. Without that physical expression, would the longing have been so strong? It is easier to forget something you never had.

I missed the reason Teague was so obsessed with Ada.  It didn’t quiet make sense why he was after her in such an odd manner. If you like the girl, can’t you just ask her out like a normal human being? Why the stalker- killer behavior? Teague was a bad person, and definitely a killer and not a normal human being. However, it was briefly spoken about how Ada’s father, Reverend Moore (Donald Sutherland), had land and money, which was more power for him to control.

Being a deserter is a difficult thing for both country and solider. In times of civil war it is, by far, the most grayish area of loyalty. For instance, during the Napoleonic wars, the Bonapartist and the Royalist were all French, but siding with one or the other meant life or death. Once you choose a side, you had to stick with it for life. Deserting your post once you have made up your mind at a later time was unforgivable. The same with the American Civil war. Ideals can be so fluid when you are fighting your own countryman. In the hospital, it was told for them to look out the window and see what they are fighting for.  Truth be told, many of the wounded soldiers probably saw something that wasn’t worth the trouble. Slaves picking cotton?

Reverend Veasey (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) provide some excellent and sinister comic relief. However, I can’t understand how Inman was still chained to the gang after they were all shot. I mean, getting out of chains is hard only if you are chained to yourself, or something you can’t break, chew, or cut off. Being chained to a dead man isn’t the most difficult of things to relieve yourself of.

I loved the future telling well imagery. What I loved about it is the subtle way it came and went, and the hard hitting way it came back. The entire ending resisted the urge to do a flash back to the well scene. In most Hollywood movies, they would have done a flash back, and explained it in a monologue that would have sapped all meaning out if it. It would have rob the viewer of the chance to make the connection in their mind, and to remember it themselves. Most Hollywood movies think people are stupid and cant remember something that happened 30 minutes ago. I loved that the director allowed the ending to play out, and allowed the view to sense the imagery of the well, the closure of the crows and completing the movie with the clouds. You knew everything, because you felt it.

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