Ride With The Devil (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|This Civil war epic treads along some of
the same ground as the Clint Eastwood classic, "The
Outlaw Josey Wales", moving southward and eastward
only a bit to feature the portion of the war that took
place in southern Missouri instead of the Kansas-Missouri
border skirmishes. Missouri was a slave-holding state,
and was the only such state to fight with the Union, so
the government of Missouri had somewhat less than 100%
support in this decision.
Southern Missouri was the setting for bloody skirmishes between Jayhawkers (Union soldiers officially supported by Missouri's government) and Bushwackers (guerillas fighting for the Confederate cause).
was only a backdrop for a personal story. The boys
fighting here are not embroiled in speculation about
Perhaps the gentlemen of Savannah fought for the right to maintain their way of life without outside interference. Perhaps some northerners fought for the abstract issues like the rights of man and the preservation of the union. But these boys choose sides based upon which neighbors they like, or who mistreated their friends' fathers.
movie is less about principles of the Civil War than it
is about how real people act in wartime - how the violent
find a way to justify their barbarism; how
"causes" become ways to rationalize family
feuds and avenge personal hostilities. If you look at it
that way, this portion of the Civil War was no different
from the war in the former Yugoslavia. And that's
probably a valid point. This movie is as much about the
Balkans as it is about Missouri. Maybe more so.
The movie uses an unusual convention. It assumes that the stilted formalism of the written language of that time was reflected in speech, even amongst the ploughmen and smithys. Valid or not, it lends an otherworldly characteristic and period feel to the action, but it makes it seem slow, stilted and cerebral. It has a way of taking the emotion out of the speech and couching everything in subtle suggestion. And I'm not sure if that makes sense, because the real message here is that the whole thing was really about personal emotions, about guys burning their neighbors' farms and stealing their cows and raping their womenfolk, and the other guys making lists of who should die in the name of vengeance, and slaughtering them in their sleep.
If you are studying the Civil War in school, this is probably a wonderful way to get a feel for the manners and thoughts of the era. It has been praised for its accuracy, and the film doesn't romanticize the actions or motives of either side. The photography is impressive, and the quiet, subtle score is quite effective. Ang Lee is the same man who directed Crouching Tiger, so you know he knows his music and visuals.
But I warn you. With its conventionalized dialogue, langorous pacing, and 138 minute run time, this is one slow-moving film. I haven't missed the point. I understand that war is a lot of waiting and freezing, and not that much action. But when a filmmaker chooses to dramatize that point, it doesn't make for an easy watch because we, like the characters, spend a lot of time waiting for something to happen.
Rent "Josey Wales" instead.
|Ya gotta love the
variety in Ang Lee's films. No chance he'll be
stereotyped. If you watch several of them, it's difficult
to identify any common elelments, other than the polished
By the way, Jewel did fine in her screen debut.
Not sure if she plans to be an actress or a singer, but it appears she could be successful at either. She's not actress-thin, and her natural crooked nose and awkward dentition were actually a period advantage in this role, since 19th century Missouri wasn't known for its orthodontics, rhinoplasty, or health clubs. You might say she was the only one with a realistic 19th century look. Not to mention some major league yabbos.
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