I think Miramax Films is starting a new trend. This is the second year in a row that they've released a film that isn't as great as they (and everyone else) thinks it is. No, I'm not talking about last year's wonderful Best Picture winner Chicago. I'm talking about Gangs of New York, which was good, but should not have got a Best Picture nomination. This year, Miramax is continuing the trend with Cold Mountain, a beautiful yet Scorcese-like longwinded movie that doesn't deserve a Best Picture nomination, but will probably get the nod anyway.
There was one really cool thing that I liked about this movie, and that was the mere fact that there were a lot of actors and actresses that I had no idea were even in this movie. And it was even cooler that they didn't have an opening credit sequence, which added to the surprise. And even though most of them are smaller performances, they're all pretty good. Look for these nice performances from Cilian Murphy (28 Days Later), Brendan Gleeson (Dark Blue), Giovanni Ribisi (Boiler Room), Charlie Hunnam (Abandon), Jena Malone (Life as a House), Ethan Suplee (American History X), Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala), Jack White (lead singer of The White Stripes), James Gammon (the manager in Major League) and Donald Sutherland (lots of stuff). But probably the best of the supporting performances comes from the incredibly versatile Phillip Seymour Hoffman (25th Hour and many many others) who plays Reverend Veasey, a character that is a cross between a reverend and Billy Bob Thornton's Bad Santa. I was constantly surprised at who kept popping up in this movie, and it was really nice to see such an incredibly diverse cast of characters.
Oh yeah, and there are some lead actors and actresses as well. Jude Law gives another wonderful performance, that will hopefully be recognized by Oscar, as the subdued, driven Inman, who is the strong, silent type who goes to war while pining for the stunning Ada Monroe. Nicole Kidman gives another Oscar-worthy performance as Monroe, a Southern Belle who must learn to fend for herself after her father dies and Inman leaves for war. But the other lead performance will, like the movie itself, probably be nominated for an award, even though it shouldn't.
Renee Zellwegger, who was a fluke Oscar nominee 2 years ago but deserved her nomination last year for Chicago, will probably get her Oscar nomination hat trick this year for her performance as Ruby in this movie, although she shouldn't. Zellweger's Ruby character is one we've definitely seen before: the tomboy-ish, hard-as-nails girl who suppresses her real emotions at first, and then lets them all burst out like an exploding beer keg to add the dramatic effect. For some reason, the only character I can think that resembles Ruby is Robin Tunney's Debra character in Empire Records, but I know there are a slew of movie characters out there that are very similar to Ruby. Apart from her character being fairly cliche, Zellweger tries to go so over the top it gets fairly annoying, which can apparently be confused for good acting. I guess her performance is good because she fits the mold of the character, but damn Zell. Take it down an octave or two. I almost needed earplugs for her incredibly noisy scenes that, to me, resembled the "Most Annoying Sound in the World" scene from Dumb and Dumber.
Although the story is dramatic and heartwarming and all that mushy stuff, it's way way too long. I guess it fits in with the movie year as a whole, because a vast majority of this year's movies could've easily been trimmed down. But just because there's a trend, doesn't mean they had to follow it. The movie has a 2 hour and 35 minute runtime, which could've easily been snipped down to 2 hours. There is an old Hollywood maxim that every scene should advance the story or give character development, and there are a lot of scenes here, including one with Jena Malone's character and Inman and Veasey, that are just unnecessary or could've been done more succinctly. The script as a whole, written by director Anthony Minghella, is pretty good, with some nice dialogue, subplots and plot line. It just all needed to be condensed a bit, and it was way too predictable as well.
Minghella is definitely one of those writer-director's who you'll probably never see writing or directing an action movie, although Cold Mountain is probably the closest thing to an action movie on his resume. There are some absolutely phenomenal war scenes that open up the movie, and if Minghella wanted to be the next John McTiernan, he probably could, judging from the wonderful action scenes here. But, his films are fairly artsy and they're always dramatic, and there are plenty of both of these elements in Cold Mountain. Minghella has a great, broad style behind the camera and it seems that he gets exactly what he wants out of his actors and actresses...although I'm not quite certain why he wanted Zellweger to be as obnoxious as a 8-year-old who overdosed on Vivarin, but I digress. Overall, Minghella does a fine job at the helm of this film.
Cold Mountain is a movie about love and war. It's a grand story that is entertaining, dramatic and sad. Cold Mountain has everything a moviegoer could want in a movie... there's just too much of it, and way too much Zellweger, in more ways than one.