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19 March, 2004

Review: Cold Mountain (2004)

I rather enjoyed this film last night, though it did feel long, at 152 mins.  I haven't read the book yet, so can't comment on the quality of the transition, but as a 'standalone' film, I thought it worked fairly well.  It certainly wasn't flawless, but nothing particularly detracted from my overall enjoyment.  For example, there was little suspense about the eventual outcome, but somehow that didn't matter.  It was a bit 'pretty' in places.  In particular, Nicole Kidman's makeup, hair and tailoring were a little too perfect.

I'd be interested to hear how a native of North Carolina regarded the accents: of the lead and main supporting actors, Kidman is Australian, Brendan Gleeson is Irish, and both Jude Law and Ray Winstone are British, yet at least to a Brit's ears, they seemed to sustain suitable Southern US accents.

In the last couple of films in which I've seen her, Kidman seems to have acquired a mildly annoying mannerism: a little head shake, perhaps signifying puzzlement, which somehow seems distinctly contemporary Californian (I've no idea why I make that association) and also looks vacuous, somehow . I hope she (ahem) shakes it off. George Clooney similarly displays the same mannerisms irrespective of the roles he plays, and his signature head-tilting and -bobbing really detracts from his performances.

The balance of sound playback in the cinema was good: gunshots and explosions (not that it was an action movie!) were deafening, but that's appropriate, whereas the volume of all other content was about right.

The cast was good, with established names in relatively minor supporting roles, including Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman and, particularly impressive, Natalie Portman.

In a couple of places, the ages of the characters seemed wrong, which was distracting: Winstone's seemingly psychotic main 'henchman' (Charlie Hunnam) looked to be exactly the right age to be in the army, not the home guard. In retrospect, his lines repeatedly referred to this alleged youth, so maybe the character was supposed to be rather younger (mid-teens?) than the actor (twenties?), but that wasn't sufficiently obvious - if that was the intention, why not use a younger actor? Secondly, there was some confusion about the interval between the climax of the film and the epilogue. The sudden appearence of a young girl implied some years have passed, but there was no attempt to make the actors, particularly Kidman, seem at all older.

Incidentally, that pale-but-not-albino (maybe he was supposed to be?) home guardsman seemed to be the film's main incongruity - his bleach-blond hair, mannerisms and phrasing seemed far too modern.

Coincidentally, at the same time as I was watching Richard Brake playing a supporting role in 'Cold Mountain' ('Nym'), he was in the same building 'for real', playing the lead in The Duke's stage production of Sam Shepard's 'True West' in the 180-seat studio theatre next door.

NP: The Flower Kings, Würzburg, 1996

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