More surface sheen than sturdy substance, Anthony Minghella's pricey adap of Charles Frazier's bestseller attempts to juggle the intimate (Jude'n'Nicole's amorous yearnings) with the epic (the US Civil War).
It's got a mouth-watering cast, gorgeous visuals and there's a bloody great explosion near the beginning. So what's the problem? Call it the Miramax factor, that prestige-pic polish that lets refined taste win over a full, gritty flavour. Shame too, that with all the other fine thesping on offer (Natalie Portman's forlorn war widow; sinful preacher Philip Seymour Hoffman), the Oscar went to Renée Zellweger's cute-but-caricatured turn as rough-diamond farmgirl Ruby.