One of the great horrors of our national history—the Civil War—has been the backdrop of some wonderful stories. The most famous is “Gone With the Wind.” The love triangle of Scarlet O’Hara, Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes is a part of American popular culture. Now, “Cold Mountain” joins the ranks of love stories etched in the wasteland of the Civil War.
Based on Charles Frazier’s novel, “Cold Mountain” gives us the story of Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), a pastor’s daughter, and the reserved Inman (Jude Law). The two meet during the building of the church where Ada’s father will minister. Theirs is a quiet relationship filled with silence and longing glances.
But the coming of war to their small North Carolina mountain town pulls them apart. Ada resents Inman’s going, while Inman goes out of duty. What takes place in the movie is the horrific tale of two lovers separated by war.
Inman is wounded at the Battle of Petersburg. While recovering he receives a letter from Ada, whose words move him to desert and go back to Cold Mountain. He goes on a journey of tragic love through temptation and torture.
Ada is confronted with life without Inman and soon without her father. Being alone, with no survival skills, she finds herself in need of help. This comes in the form of Ruby (Renee Zellweger). Ruby is all that Ada is not. Ada is sweetness and refinement; Ruby is salty and rough. The two become bound in a relationship of equals, awaiting war’s end and better times.
Anthony Minghella, who directed “The English Patient,” directs “Cold Mountain.” He shows a world plunged into the madness that is inhumanity.
The actors deliver terrific performances, and there are no problems with Southern accents. Philip Seymour Hoffman is remarkable as a disgraced preacher who has his hair bobbed and is run out of town because of his indiscretions. Zellweger is delightful as Ruby.
But, there is a problem. This is a beautiful movie with great actors—but I never got drawn into it. Try as I might, there was an element missing.
“Seinfeld” actually had an episode dealing with Minghella’s “The English Patient.” In it, Elaine goes to see the movie and comes out hating it. She becomes a target of many because of her disdain for the movie. Elaine does not understand why all of her friends and co-workers loved the movie because she thought it stunk.
Movies are like people. Some you are drawn to, and some you are not. Some you can take or leave.
I can take or leave “Cold Mountain.” It may strike you as fantastic, but there was something I needed and did not find. In the end, I just didn’t care enough about the characters to have a real emotional bond.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and sexuality
Director: Anthony Minghella
Writer: Anthony Minghella (from the novel by Charles Frazier)
Cast: Inman: Jude Law; Ada: Nicole Kidman; Ruby: Renee Zellweger; Rev. Monroe: Donald Sutherland; Veasey: Philip Seymour Hoffman; Sara: Natalie Portman.
The movie’s official Web site is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.