Americans are, as a society, quite fascinated by the Civil War. It is one of the pivotal moments in our history. It is the most studied American war. This movie brings you into that time, wraps you in its world. It's something of an American Odyssey, as we follow the journey of a deserter named Inman (played by Jude Law) as he makes his way home. The first thing that struck me about this film is the incredible landscape in which it takes place. The juxtaposition between the savage, dirty battlefields and the near-pristine forests of 1860's North Carolina is awesome. Add to that the lonely sound of a bluegrass fiddle and it makes for a haunting scenario. The performances quite lived up to the setting, as well. Of course, I always like Jude Law, and Nicole Kidman was alright, but the one who really surprised me was Natalie Portman. Portman is usually such a flat, boring actress to watch, but she managed to pull out quite an impressive performance as a young Southern widow in this film. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Renée Zellweger provided a great counterpoint to the generally solemn tone with some truly hilarious moments (although I found Zellweger to be a bit inappropriately spunky at times). I will be quite amazed if this film doesn't manage to garner several Academy Award nominations.
Viewed: 1/2/2004 | Released: 12/24/2003 | Score: A