COLD MOUNTAIN tells the tale of a young soldier’s journey from the front lines of the Civil War back to his heart and soul in Cold Mountain, North Carolina. Though this star-studded movie portrays excessive sex and violence, its real problem is with its deplorable worldview, which, like many other current films, promotes quiet acquiescence to despair, rather than true healing available in Christ.
It is 1864 during the War Between the States, and the southern troops await attack. Despite their reputation for keeping store hours, the Yankees manage to hide, then detonate an explosive that racks the Confederate troops with deadly force, killing a young boy and badly maiming the quiet, handsome J. P. Inman (Jude Law). As he lies in the infirmary, waiting to die, Inman’s life flashes back to the place he loves – Cold Mountain, North Carolina.
It was there, three years earlier, that Inman met the beautiful Ada (Nicole Kidman), daughter of the town’s new pastor, Reverend Monroe (Donald Sutherland). Though they had barely gotten to know each other before the war, Inman and Ada had fallen in love, having shared only a few conversations and one passionate kiss.
Reverend Monroe holds church services and refuses to preach pro- or anti-war messages. In one discussion with a friend, he discusses the fact that God must be weary with being called down on both sides of an argument. It is during one of his services that the announcement comes that the war has begun. The men get up, mid-sentence in their hymn, and run outside, yelling, “We go to war! We go to war!” The hateful Mr. Teague, who basically runs the town, threatens that any able-bodied man who refuses to fight, or deserts the Confederacy, will have to contend with him and his men. He, of course, declares himself too old to fight.
Back at the infirmary, a young nurse reads Inman a letter from Ada, telling him that her father, the reverend, has died, and begging him to come home to her. His sudden resolve to do just that amazes the medics, as those similarly wounded rarely make it through one night. Soon, the rapidly recovering Inman reads another letter from Ada and decides to quietly leave in the night, heading back for Cold Mountain and the woman that so clearly needs him.
Far away in Cold Mountain, Ada must now learn to fend for herself on the farm, find food and warmth, and keep her spirits up. She befriends a kind farm lady (Kathy Baker) and her husband, whose two boys are off fighting in the war. Just when Ada is at her lowest point, being attacked by a rooster, up walks Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger), a tough country girl who offers to help her shape up the farm in exchange for room and board. When Ada agrees, Ruby quickly grabs and kills the offensive rooster and cooks it for dinner. As they dine, Ruby tells about how her father had abandoned and abused her in her early years, and now she’s alone. She says, “Daddy would walk 40 miles for liquor but not 40 feet for kindness.”
Meanwhile, Inman is making good time on his journey by foot. He must continually be on the alert for those who inform on deserters, however. One night he sees a man standing over the cliff of a stream, holding a black woman and asking God to forgive him for what he is about to do. Inman rushes up to stop him and finds out that the man is a local preacher (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), who has impregnated a slave and now wants to hide his deed by killing the woman. The preacher repents and agrees to let the woman live, but Inman senses his companion’s shady, slick nature and decides to tie the preacher to a chair in the middle of the town square, posting a note above him, telling the town his story. As Inman continues his journey back to Cold Mountain, however, he meets up with the preacher again, who has been run out of town, due to the note. Since both men are now on the run, the two decide to team up for safety.
The preacher finds a cross saw in the woods and decides to keep it. Inman challenges him, saying, “You can’t steal it! You’re a Christian! Don’t you know your Ten Commandments?” The preacher replies, “The Lord is rather flexible on the subject of property.” The two men proceed to fall into a trap where a group of prostitutes seduces them, only to sell them out to some bounty hunters. They are chained to a group of deserters, only to have some Union troops come and fire on everyone. Inman is the only one who makes it alive, though he’s badly wounded again. An old woman, who looks and acts a lot like a witch, rescues him and nurses him back to health, giving him a lecture on the circle of life and destiny, and feeding him some herbs for his wounds.
Back in Cold Mountain, things have gotten progressively worse. Teague and his men are torturing those who aid deserters, and Ada and Ruby have gotten some unexpected company. As the movie progresses, audiences wonder if Inman will escape entrapment again and make it home to Cold Mountain and whether Ada will be alive or receptive if he does return.
Many of the production qualities are high in COLD MOUNTAIN. The cinematography is breath taking in some parts, the war scenes are well acted and brilliantly realistic, and the star-studded cast does a commendable job. The movie drags in parts, however, and there really isn’t much to the story, which is based on the novel by Charles Frazier. Reportedly, the book leaves readers with a nebulous ending, but the 2_-hour movie leaves audiences with a deep sense of hopeless melancholy.
The tone of COLD MOUNTAIN is the New Age philosophy that life is hard and dreams are either unattainable or fleeting. . . that one must find a place of quiet acquiescence to the despairing circumstances of life, and that one must learn to accept the wounds of the heart as part of the circle of life. In contrast, the Bible teaches that there is a mediator, the Jesus Christ, who came to give us life abundant. . . that the brief, momentary afflictions (of life) are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond what we could ask or think, and that God extends true healing, not just quiet acquiescence, regarding the wounds that others inflict throughout life.
The movie disparages Christians by showing the one preacher (Donald Sutherland) to be kindhearted, yet one who takes no stand on issues, and the other preacher (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to be mouthy and sinful, indulging his carnal nature at every turn. Inman’s rescuer at one point is a witch, it appears, who gives him the standard post-modern rhetoric about destiny and inevitability. Though the characters in the film undergo heart-wrenching atrocities, the story leads us to believe that the answer is “learning to deal,” in quiet, submissive, passive ways, rather than to seek out true healing that penetrates the root of issues and manifests itself in abundant new fruit.
The message is subtle, but profound. It is Hollywood’s perspective on the chaos of life, also seen in such recent films as THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS, THE HOURS, SYLVIA, THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, and THE HUMAN STAIN. These movies are portraits of the despair that comes apart from a relationship with the One True God. Several of the above movies even extol suicide as a viable answer to despair. COLD MOUNTAIN ends with, “What we’ve lost will never be returned, and our land will never be healed.”
Besides this deplorable worldview, COLD MOUNTAIN contains some senseless whorehouse scenes showing overt sex and nudity (including one scene where a young boy watches), and a love scene with the protagonists (though they do pronounce themselves married at the time). There are a few obscenities, though mostly mild, and a great deal of bloody war violence.
The movie comes out on Christmas Day, a day supposed to be filled with joy and hope, for some entertainment that is actually uplifting, such as CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, or MASTER AND COMMANDER.
Finally, if moral audiences have already been polluted by Hollywood’s skewed messages, they would do well to recall the words that our president spoke last week as he lit the great Christmas tree in Washington, “God’s Word to us is the same word He gave on that first Christmas, ‘Fear not!’ God’s purposes are justice, and His plans are peace.”
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Bob & Harvey Weinstein
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SUMMARY: COLD MOUNTAIN tells the tale of a young soldier’s journey from the front lines of the Civil War back to his heart and soul in Cold Mountain, North Carolina. Though this star-studded movie portrays excessive sex and violence, its real problem is with its deplorable worldview, which, like many other current films, promotes quiet acquiescence to despair, rather than true healing available in Christ.
(PaPa, OO, AbAb, C, Fe, L, VVV, SSS, NNN, AA, M) New Age pagan worldview where woman who acts like a witch gives protagonist a lecture on the circle of life and destiny at a crucial moment of aid, and movie suggests that the fulfillment of dreams is fleeting, if at all, and that life’s all about learning to deal with, rather than truly heal, life’s wounds, with strongly negative portrayals of extremely sinful and carnal preacher contrasted with kindhearted pastor who refuses to take a stand on the Civil War, with some portrayals of feminism and mostly negative portrayals of men; moderate foul language with eight obscenities and four profanities; strong violence with bloody Civil War battle scenes and the aftermath of the wounded, torture; very strong sexual content with overt portrayals of naked women in brothel, child looking on as woman bares herself and invites a man to enjoy her body, couple has full nude sex scene, soldier attempts rape, etc.; strong nudity with numerous upper female nude portrayals, including women in brothel and protagonist’s sex scene; alcohol use and drunkenness; and, desertion and torture.
GENRE: Historical Drama