[SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! There are probably going to be spoilers in the following review. If you don't want to suffer spoilage, then stop reading now.]
It’s fitting that I saw Cold Mountain on a night when the temperature was as cold as it’s been this winter around here…a good 28 degrees below freezing. This film did nothing to warm me nor the cockles of my heart. It’s not that I hated it, it’s that I just don’t care.
This is a film that is obviously constructed to win an Oscar, yet when you step out of the theatre, you think to yourself: “Did I really care about anything or anyone I saw in the past three (plus) hours?” I was hardpressed to answer that question. The closest I came to worrying about the fates of any of the characters were the more minor roles…the minister, the neighbor wife who loses her family, the young widow, the kid killed in battle. The rest of the characters are either despicable (Confederates, white-trash whores, hypocritical “men of God”, Yankee marauders) or poorly developed/backgrounded (see: all main characters, w/possible exception of Renee Zellweger’s). Either way, you could care less about their fate (except perhaps to want to see them die), which renders this movie devoid of any real emotional impact.
Part of this lack of emotional impact is the familiarity of it all. In addition to contempt, familiarity breeds predictability, and this movie wouldn’t be any more predictable if you were sitting in front of a crystal ball. (I would say that this is the most predictable movie I’ve seen since Paycheck, but since I just saw that last week, and don’t really want to admit to having seen that anyway… . BTW, Ben Domenech shares my view regarding the predictability.) This movie consists of every war/homefront movie cliche you’ve ever seen, mixed together and shaken around and dumped out again. It should have to credit the writers of Gone With The Wind, Shenandoah, and Oh Brother Where Art Thou, among others. There’s even a Forrest Gump “shrimp cocktail” moment when Phillip Seymour Hoffman starts listing off the possible uses for the saw he found. All these cliches and recycled bits cause you to think during the entire movie, “Haven’t I seen this somewhere before?” Throw in a bit of gratuitous (and I mean gratuitous) nudity, and evidently you’ve got yourself a recipe for Oscar buzz.
The only thing that makes this movie bearable is the exceptional cast. Jude Law reprises his war-weary soldier from Enemy At The Gates (Where have I seen this before?). Nicole Kidman, is, well, beautiful. Donald Sutherland is always a treat, as is Hoffman. Jack White even does nicely, as does the rest of the supporting cast. And when Zellweger appears a third of the way through the movie, she brings some comic relief that is sorely lacking up until that point.
Even this cast, though, couldn’t make me care. Jude Law dies? Fine. He lives? Okay. I can see what’s coming, so can we just get it done with so we can leave? And after I leave, what exactly am I supposed to take away from this movie? War is hell? Plenty of movies have told me that, better. Infatuation (can’t really call it love) conquers all? Well, it still doesn’t conquer cold hard lead. Saying “I marry you” three times results in a wedding? No, and it doesn’t prevent an illegitimate kid.
Here’s what I left this movie asking: what the heck was Tom Cruise thinking when he messed that one up? Nicole, call me.
Bobby Allison-Gallimore writes at The Rattler…when his tongue isn’t frozen to the flagpole.