Cold Mountain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The picture largely looked solid.
Sharpness mostly appeared positive. Occasionally I noticed a little lack of definition in wider shots, but those didn’t occur frequently or seem substantial. Instead, the movie almost always appeared distinctive and crisp. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes were absent. In terms of print flaws, I detected a couple of small specks but nothing more than that.
The palette of Mountain stayed somewhat restricted much of the time, but the tones came across well. Scenes at Cold Mountain tended to seem light and airy, as they veered toward soft greens and pastels. War footage went down a darker path, with rude reds. Whatever the disposition, the colors were firm and vibrant. Black levels seemed pretty solid, and low-light shots appeared appropriately delineated. Ultimately, the image of Mountain worked well.
In addition, the audio of DTS-HD MA 5.1 Cold Mountain seemed satisfying. Much of the film remained fairly low-key and didn’t tax the soundfield. Nonetheless, it presented a natural feeling throughout the action. Music offered nice stereo delineation, and effects appeared well placed and blended neatly.
Surround activity kicked in mainly during the occasional action sequences. Battles used all five channels quite well, while a few other louder bits also featured good material from the surrounds. The track worked extremely well when necessary.
Audio quality seemed fine. Speech consistently came across as concise and crisp, with no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Effects seemed distinctive and accurate. They presented fine dynamics and clarity, with clean highs and firm lows. Music fared best of all. The score was bright and bold. Low-end response was very strong, as bass seemed deep and tight without any boominess. The soundtrack of Mountain fell short of “A” level due to inconsistent ambition, but the mix seemed strong for the material.
How did this Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2004? Expect the usual Blu-ray improvements, as the audio appeared fuller and smoother, while the visuals came across as better defined and more vibrant. Although the DVD worked fine, the Blu-ray gave the flick a superior presentation.
The Blu-ray duplicates the DVD’s extras. First comes an audio commentary from director Anthony Minghella and editor Walter Murch, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. As was the case with the group commentary on The English Patient, Minghella heavily dominates this discussion, as Murch chimes in fairly infrequently. This isn’t because the director’s a space hog; instead, it seems to occur naturally, simply because Minghella’s such a rich and effective speaker.
Despite Minghella’s dominance, Murch’s presence means the track tends toward technical and storytelling topics. We hear about issues like Minghella’s fondness for ADR, color correction, locations, the international cast, music and sound. I especially like Minghella’s contrast of the acting styles displayed by Jude Law and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Most of the track gets into editing and story related matters as well as the adaptation of the novel. We get an excellent treatise on the portrayal of the characters and the methods used to depict the tale. Minghella helps bring the thin material of the movie to life through his embellishments, and I actually appreciated the flick much more once I heard his explanations. It’s a fine commentary.
After this we shift to a documentary called Climbing Cold Mountain. It runs one hour, 14 minutes and six seconds as it offers remarks from Minghella, Murch, producers Albert Berger, William Horberg, Ron Yerxa and Sydney Pollack, Civil War consultant Brian Pohanka, dialect coach Tim Monich, gaffer Mo Flam, director of photography John Seale, publicist Larry Kaplan, special photographer Brigitte Lacombe, and actors Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Renee Zellweger, Jack White and Giovanni Ribisi.
We learn about adapting the novel and Minghella’s writing habits, location scouting, production design, researching and staging the battle, the cast, the characters and rehearsals, shooting the film and connected issues such as weather and being in Romania, publicity elements, editing, music, the preview process and premieres. While the information in “Climbing” seems quite good and we learn a number of nuances not covered in the commentary, the behind the scenes elements stand as the highlights here. Much of the time, it comes across more as a production diary than a documentary, and I mean that as a positive. We see many intriguing instances of shots from the set and other locations, and these add to the program’s depth. It’s a rich and valuable examination of the filmmaking process.
In the Deleted Scenes section we locate 11 cut segments. When viewed via the “Play All” option, these use up 20 minutes and 59 seconds. These almost uniformly consist of fairly subdued character moments. Nothing of particular interest happens here, though a scene in which the returning Inman meets Georgia has potential, and we also see some shots mentioned in the commentary. These are minor character moments that would have slowed an already overly long movie.
Next we fiind The Words and Music of Cold Mountain - Royce Hall Special. It fills one hour, 33 minutes, and six seconds with a mixture of elements from a live event. After a performance from Jack White, we get an introduction from filmmaker Sydney Pollack. The program then includes an interview between film critic David Thompson and Minghella as well as film clips. Once that part concludes, it alternates among movie snippets, music, and readings. For the music, we get performances from Tim Erikson, Cassie Franklin, Stuart Duncan, Dirk Powell, Alison Krauss, Riley Baugus, Tim O’Brien, Sting and the Sacred Harp Singers. As for the readings, Sting, Brendan Gleeson, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Kathy Baker and Minghella all read from the novel of Cold Mountain as well as from Ann Carson’s The Glass Essay and the Book of Job. It’s an interesting event and it adds a cool piece for the disc.
A promotional special, A Journey to Cold Mountain goes for 29 minute and 41 seconds as it touts the flick. We hear from Mingella, Kidman, Law, Zellweger, Yerxa, Gleeson, White, Pollack, author Charles Frazier, UC-Santa Barbara Associate Professor of History John Majewski, executive music producer T-Bone Burnett, singer Sting, and actors Natalie Portman and Philip Seymour Hoffman. “Journey” covers the same information found elsewhere but does it in a fluffier and more insubstantial manner. Actually, we do hear a little about costumes that I don’t recall in other programs, and there’s a little more about the music, but that’s it. Otherwise this superficial piece lacks any reason for fans to watch it, as they’ll get all the material presented better in other areas.
A four-minute and nine-second featurette covers Sacred Harp History. We hear from musicians Tim Eriksen and David Ivey plus T-Bone Burnett. They relate some details about the style and we watch a performance of this supremely annoying music. It’s a fairly bland piece that doesn’t tell us a ton about the music.
Lastly, Storyboard Comparisons lets us examine three segments. We see “The Siege of Petersburg” (three minutes, 56 seconds), “The Swanger Torture Scene” (2:36) and “Sara’s Cabin” (3:45). These show the boards in the top two-thirds of the frame with the movie at the bottom. It’s a passable presentation.
The disc opens with ads for The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, The Conspirator, Rabbit Hole and The Others. These also appear under Trailers, but no ad for Cold Mountain pops up here.
I can’t say that I felt surprised that I didn’t think much of Cold Mountain, since I didn’t care for the same director’s The English Patient. Since I did enjoy his Talented Mr. Ripley, I figured all wasn’t lost, but Mountain is much closer in spirit and story to Patient, which means it also seems fairly sappy and inane. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio plus a mostly informative and well-executed set of extras. I feel pleased with this release, and the Blu-ray’s low list price makes it a great purchase for fans; I’m not one of them, but I certainly can’t find any reason to criticize the quality of this package.
To rate this film visit the original review of COLD MOUNTAIN