Ride With The Devil

Ride With The Devil


Reviewed by: Nicholas Dawson

Showcasing Ang Lee's versatile talent for making great period dramas, following Sense And Sensibility and the superlative The Ice Storm, the film follows a group of pro-Southern 'bushwhacker' guerrillas on the Kansas-Missouri border in their conflict with the Union-supporting 'Jayhawkers'.

German-born Jake Roedel (Tobey Maguire), his lifelong friend Jack Bull Chiles (Skeet Ulrich), black slave Daniel Holt (Jeffrey Wright) and his friend and liberator George Clyde (Simon Baker) are part of the renegade band fighting in the small-scale war of neighbours. When winter sets in, the four take refuge from the cold in a hillside shelter, where they are helped by young Sue Lee, who brings a little happiness to their chilly existence. In the central role, Tobey Maguire is simply superb, while Jeffrey Wright gives a wonderfully understated performance as the slave fighting for the wrong side. The support is solid, with Ulrich good value in a slightly smaller role, and singer Jewel surprisingly impressive in her first film part.

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Adapted from Daniel Woodrell's novel Woe To Live On, the film is an unconventional war epic. It shows a representative picture of the Civil War, namely little fighting and a lot of waiting. The brutality and futility, as well as the human element, are captured very well, while the device of the confiscated Union mailbag provides different angles on a very complicated conflict.

However, though the film provides a more honest portrayal of the war, it never feels quite complete. The difficulty of the subject, and dealing with such a relatively irrelevant part of it, trips it up somewhat. Furthermore, the long periods without any action make the elegantly brutal skirmish scenes feel strangely out of place.

Nevertheless, despite these imperfections, Ride With the Devil deserves to be, and will, be seen by a lot of people.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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American Civil War epic.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***

Director: Ang Lee

Writer: James Schamus, based on the novel Woe To Live On by Daniel Woodrell

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel, Jeffrey Wright, Simon Baker, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Year: 1999

Runtime: 140 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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