I was prepared not to like Cold Mountain because I did not care for the book. It didn't engage me.
However, the film far exceeded my expectations. It's got a haunting beauty, graphic battle scenes (not unlike other Civil War films we have seen), humor, great kindness and courage with much human weakness - and no cliche's. Food and "meal" is a stong motif, among many others, as well as faith and religion, without being obvious.
There is so much to say. Rene Zellweger is amazing and provides the humor. She deserves a best supporting actress win on this. We may be almost at saturation point with Nicole, but she carries off her role as Ada (she has a "piano", too) very well. Jude Law fits perfectly into his role as "Inman". To the credit of cast and director, it is more an ensemble piece than a presentation vehicle for Nicole. Very well cast.
It's moving and very much an anti-war film without being preachy.
Some aspects reminded me of The English Patient... but I got over that fast enough.
The only major gaffe is Nicole's black pant suit that is so out of character for a period piece. And if someone tries to explain it away, I am not inclined to accept any explanation. You can try though ...
Cold Mountain IS one of the good ones and I recommend it.