Josh Bell

Cold Mountain is very pretty. The Civil War drama, from writer-director Anthony Minghella, is beautifully shot by cinematographer John Seale, mostly in Romania. The images are so carefully constructed that they seem like porcelain dolls that might shatter at the slightest touch.

Unfortunately, Minghella has crafted the story much the same way. It focuses on Confederate soldier Inman (Jude Law), who deserts after receiving a plea from his sweetheart, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman). Meanwhile, Ada struggles to keep her farm afloat after her father's death and receives help from Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger), a spunky itinerant laborer.

Minghella stages a spectacular battle sequence at the beginning of the film, but after that, all life drains from the story. British Law and Australian Kidman are both very, very wrong for their parts, neither putting forth believable Southern accents or believable love for one another.

Zellweger goes a little overboard on Ruby's twang and sparkle, but at least she feels like a real character and not a Calvin Klein model. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Kathy Baker all do better than the leads in their small parts.

Known for smart literary adaptations The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley, Minghella tries too hard here, carefully placing every element but stupidly forgetting to include any feeling.

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