COLD MOUNTAIN (Anthony Minghella)
So that's how it feels like watching a movie you've read from the source material. You find great details in the novel that you wished the filmmaker did not omit. But then again, include such details from Charles Frazier's highly-illustrative novel and you get a running time of not less than five hours, especially if Terrence Malick will direct, or Cecil B. De Mille, if he was still alive.
Of course I do not mean include all the detailed descriptions of the Poplar leaves, the figures of the mountains, Nicole Kidman's character Ada sleeping in the woods which took an entire chapter, or the passing of seasons.
Director Anthony Minghella obviously took liberties with the material; it is as close as you can get to a book adaptation (people were complaining about the third NARNIA movie because it is unrecognizable from the C.S. Lewis beloved source material) since the most important parts are present, but there were vital scenes omitted, and/or replaced.
A crucial detail in the ending is replaced (which has an impact with the moral flux of the story), the whorehouse scene had minor alterations, and the girl who runs the ferry (played by Jena Malone in the movie) isn't supposed to die. Meanwhile, Eileen Atkins does her best to portray the old medicine woman, but falls short of expectations- the depiction is flat, and the house is supposed to be mobile.
I guess MIRAMAX execs didn't have time to sit around and watch Jude Law chase the Union raiders around a big rock, so what we got is a shootout at the widowed woman's place.
Kudos to Natalie Portman for playing the widowed woman. No could have played it better.
Brendan Gleeson is able as the fiddle-playing Stobrod, Ruby's father, but the acting lacks a bit more energy. Just a little bit more.
If there is one outstanding trait in the movie, it's Renee Zellweger; clearly all the best lines were given to her, and despite a supporting role she worked hard to embody her character. Number one...Number two...
Nicole Kidman that is not Southern accent. You're not fooling anyone.
Among the film's strengths is the back story why Inman (Jude Law) was wounded in the neck, the thrilling siege at the house of the Swangers led by the very convincing and badass Ray Winstone who plays the Confederate Teague, and Philip Seymour Hoffman who charmingly plays Reverend Veasey, the preacher with a sinister side.
"You Will be my Ain' True Love", sung by Alison Krauss, from a composition by Sting, is a remarkable piece, although its rival at the Oscars, "Into the West" sung by Annie Lennox from the OST of LOTR:ROTK (get it?) is equally competitive, winning the coveted award.
I almost jumped in my seat when I saw who played Ada's father, Monroe: DONALD SUTHERLAND! Sends shiver up my spine. I love Donald Sutherland. Obviously he transmitted his acting chops to his son, that guy who thwarts terrorists on TV.
In a nutshell, COLD MOUNTAIN is a sweeping epic, but falls short of some elements that made LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, GONE WITH THE WIND, and Minghella's previous novel to movie adaptation, THE ENGLISH PATIENT timeless classics: a solid and distinguishable characterization, coupled with emphasis. In the movie version, we just know that Ada and Inman are dying to be reunited with each other, but do we care? The problem lies on the lack of emphasis in their motivations, their feelings for one another vaguely presented. We know they've been together for a brief period before war broke out (this is true in the book) but what were they thinking during the time they are apart? The time context wasn't clearly established (one more hindrance!) which made comparison hard.
As it turns out ATONEMENT was a superior movie, which has the similar war-torn lovers conflict. I suddenly felt the urge to buy and read the Ian McEwan book.
Kidman has some funny moments in the movie which is reflective of Ada's travails on farmhand in the book. Also, the sex in the book was suggestive; in the movie Minghella went all out, showcasing Kidman's bottom for the world to see.
BREAKING AND ENTERING is still the best Minghella movie for me.