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Cold Mountain is one of the last and greatest feature films made by the incredible filmmaker Anthony Minghella. He scripted the film based upon the novel by author Charles Frazier and directed the mammoth production. The story begins and ultimately focuses upon a romance between Inman (Jude Law) and Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), two lovers who become apart upon the entrance of Inman into the American Civil War. Both characters must struggle for survival and have to endure their separation until a time when their hope can be answered and rewarded.
The novel was a huge success and the idea of an adaption was surely daunting for everyone involved. This only makes it all the more incredible and special that the final product wound up being as well-made and engaging as it is. The performances had a huge role in the film's positive reception and it is really unsurprising when one considers the strong ensemble cast, which included Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger, Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson, Giovanni Ribisi, and Donald Sutherland. That's an amazing cast for anyone to work with and in having so many talented actors together on this one project Minghella was able to craft a superb work of art. Every element seems woven together with genuine wonderment. Of particular note was the brilliant Academy-Award winning performance by Zellweger. The role is easily one of the highlights of her wonderful career.
The cinematography worked well with the direction. The landscape shots capture a feeling of the time and place in a historical context that feels authentic while also being artistic and grounded in the great traditions of the best Hollywood filmmaking there is to offer viewers. Minghella has superb visual sensibilities and tends to bring out emotional honesty from the actors he chooses to work with and his cinematographer John Seale captures the moments with precision. The collaboration between these two artists was vital to the success of Cold Mountain, which was one of the most ambitious productions that Minghella ever worked on.
This does seem to be almost entirely the "Minghella" show in some ways. The collaborations were aplenty, make no mistake... but with the screenplay, direction, and clear care over the success of this feature it is unmistakably the work of someone striving for greatness and in the quest actually finding it. This is my favorite film by the filmmaker and it is one that will stay with me throughout the years as a superb accomplishment. The story is ultimately all about the strength of the human spirit and there was no finer choice of filmmaker to help capture the importance of this historical and romantic piece of solid sweeping storytelling.
Lionsgate presented this Miramax film with a High Definition transfer preserving its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. The image is in 1080p. The good news is that this release offers a dramatic improvement over the previous DVD edition (which wasn't a quality release even by the PQ standards of the DVD format). The image on this Blu-ray is consistently impressive but not consistently flawless as a presentation. There are moments during the film where the presentation is so sharp, vivid, and involving that the mountains, landscapes, and lush cinematography significantly enhances the overall appreciation of the film's incredible artistry. Then there are scenes where the image just seems a tad too soft and underwhelming. This Blu-ray release has mixed results but everything sways towards the positive more. This isn't a perfect presentation of Cold Mountain but it's likely the best that will be seen for quite some time and it should be pleasing for fans anticipating a solid upgrade.
The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is a notable one and it offers the best way to experience the beautiful score by composer Gabriel Yared. This magnificent score accompanies the film's stunning cinematography in such a wonderful way - most will be transported by the music sounding as serene as it sounds with this lossless audio mix. It isn't the only aspect of the new DTS-HD-MA audio to benefit though: the surrounds have been well used and add depth to an enveloping sound mix.
Subtitles are provided in English, Spanish, and English (SDH) for the deaf and hard of hearing.
There are so many bonus materials on this release. The release is packed with informative behind-the-scenes features and has one particularly worthwhile special that features music from the film in concert setting style. The only drawback to these inclusions is that nothing included here is new to this Blu-ray release and everything is presented in SD.
The following extras are included on this release:
Audio Commentary with Screenwriter/Director Anthony Minghella and Editor Walter Murch
Climbing Cold Mountain Documentary (1:14:06) is an engaging documentary that examines the making of the film. There are several segments covering different areas related to the production (such as writing, filming, music, and promotion). There are a significant number of interviews with the cast, crew, filmmakers and producers.
There's definitely less detailed information about the overall production, which some fans might be hoping to learn, but there is still a plethora of worthy aspects to this interesting feature and it shouldn't be overlooked by anyone hoping to gain some added insight into Cold Mountain's creation.
Deleted Scenes (20:59) are presented letterboxed and with time-marks. There are 11 deleted sequences in total contained here.
The Words and Music of Cold Mountain - Royce Hall Special (1:33:06) is going to amaze any fan of the film that walked away from the experience with a love for the music. This well-produced special has an introduction by producer Sydney Pollack and an interview with Anthony Minghella - along with several musical performances of the Sacred Harp music and more traditional songs featured in the film.
A Journey to Cold Mountain (29:41) is a shorter Miramax Television Special that also covers aspects of the making of the film. It contains the typical amount of film clips and interview material.
Sacred Harp History (4:09) is a brief background on one of the most beautiful choral music forms out there and this piece discusses its history and relevance within the film.
Storyboard Comparisons (9:37) are included for three scenes.
Trailers (11:55) are presented in AVC HD for other Lionsgate/Miramax Blu-ray releases.
Cold Mountain was one of the best films of 2003. The performances are stellar, the script told a wonderful story through a historical perspective, and the direction made the film a beautiful and ambitious accomplishment. The Blu-ray release is a worthwhile addition to any fan's library with a solid presentation and plentiful extras.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.