Ride With The Devil (1999) - War Movie Blog


1990s Ride With the Devil (1999)

Published on March 16th, 2013 | by Chris

1

Ride With The Devil (1999)

Movie directed by:
Ang Lee

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On March 16, 2013
Last modified:February 25, 2013

Summary:

An intimate and harrowing look at life on the frontier during the Civil War, and the events leading up to (and after) the infamous Quantrill's Raid.

Ride With the Devil (1999)Ride With The Devil leads us into the infamous Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, Kansas during the Civil War, through the eyes of a band of "independent southerners," most notably one Jake Roedel (Tobey Maguire.)  Although the movie is less about that raid, as it is about the people, their life in the late 1800's, and the choices the war forces them to make.

Jake and his best friend Jack Bull (Skeet Ulrich) are defacto "southerners" living in Missouri, although Jake's German-national father takes the side of the Union, much to everyone's dismay, and to his ultimate downfall.  They become part of a band of "Bushwhackers"....  Essentially irregular soldiers fighting on the side of the Confederacy.  Their posse also includes George (Simon Baker), his "negro" Holt (Jeffrey Wright), "Black John" (Jim Caviezel), and "Pitt" Mackeson (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).

They wreak havoc among the operating Union troops, until the core of the group (Jake, Jack, Holt, and George) become separated and holed up for the winter.  They acquaint themselves with Sue Lee (Jewel Kilcher), and soon Jack and Sue Lee are defacto "involved" shall we say.

Jack is mortally wounded in another raid, and as George leaves to find help, they are forced to attempt to amputate Jack's arm in a rather nasty scene....  He does not survive, and Jake, Sue, and Holt take refuge in her former in-laws house until spring.

When spring arrives, they rejoin the Bushwhackers, and the buildup to the raid is on.  The raid itself was a terrible affair (see the link above)....   Leaving the town in ruins and over 200 people dead or wounded, mostly civilians.  Before, during, and after the raid, the animosity between Jake and Pitt builds, culminating in a battle-within-a-battle which leaves Jake and Holt wounded, and George dead.... effectively freeing Holt.  They return to the Evans farm to find Sue Lee has had Jack's baby....

During their convalescence at the farm.  Jake finds himself forced (but not really) to marry Sue Lee, and to essentially abandon the Bushwhacker cause and make a run for California, with Holt leaving for Texas to try and find his mother....

As I said, though, the movie really isn't about the war per se.  It's more about the conditions of life in "the territories" during that time.  The choices that had to be made, both in regards to allegiances, and the every day ones that were forced upon them.  The betrayals and losses that such a war brought about, and the at-times miracles that arose from it.

Even though I have a bit of a mean streak when it comes to Skeet, I have to say he did a fine job here, as did every one else.  Although Rhys Meyers I still don't particularly like, I think this sort of character suited him quite well.  Even if that sub-story line came to a rather anticlimactic end.  I guess to indicate that "all's fair in love and war" maybe, or maybe to just show that Jake's ready to move on and get on with his life.

The combat scenes, particularly the raid sequence and the subsequent retreat, are chaotic and violent.  Civilians are shot at point blank range and the full damage of those slow moving large caliber slugs is quite evident.

However, this is one of those films where everyone speaks as though they were inside a letter.  I don't know if people really would have spoken this way, especially a bunch of southern farmer types, but they all seem to have exquisite grammar and vocabularies, and eschew the use of contractions quite a bit.  Like I said, the end result is rather like reading a piece of correspondence.  I know as a kid *I* was taught to use such language when writing... but like I said sometimes it just seems unnatural.  Perhaps to hammer home the point of the time period?  Who knows.

Ride With The Devil really is a pretty good movie, based around, but not necessarily "about" the war itself.  At times difficult, but overall leaving with that satisfied sense of conclusion, that things turned out alright.  My final score is a 4.0/5.  You should really check this one out.

Ride with the Devil (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Ride with the Devil (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Description

Ride with the Devil follows four people fighting for truth & justice amidst the turmoil of the American Civil War. The action takes us to no man's land on the Missouri/Kansas border where a staunch loyalist (Ulrich), an immigrant's son (Maguire), a freed slave (Wright) and a young widow (Jewel) learn how to survive in a place without rules and redefine the meaning of bravery and honor.

DVD Information

Binding: Blu-ray
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand:
Manufacturer: Criterion
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Tobey Maguire
  • Skeet Ulrich
  • Jewel Kilcher
  • Jeremy W. Auman
  • Scott Sener

Features

  • Factory sealed DVD

Reviews

Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Good, Thought-Provoking Movie, March 18, 2017
By 
Chris C. (Provo, UT USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ride with the Devil (DVD)
Good movie. I think it is more for the thinker rather than the action junkie, although there are plenty action scenes. I don't see this movie as something that was meant to garner sympathy or support for the "protagonists," per se. I did feel somewhat sympathetic for them at times, but both sides are presented as ruthless and devoid of much feeling or emotion as they go about their atrocities. And I would assume that was the case in this "guerrilla warfare zone." Neither side were saints. And to make matters worse, there were many involved simply for plunder, personal gain, or because of their outright sadistic nature. The movie does a good job of pointing out what blind allegiance to a cause--any cause--can do to people. There were several lines in the movie that really chilled me and I think have relevance in today's liberal/conservative "war." In fact, I question whether the screenwriter actually intended those lines to be a modern-day observation about... Read more
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I always liked this movie, August 21, 2015
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I always liked this movie, & this expanded version is certainly the one to have. The Kansas/Missouri border war from 1861-65 was a vicious little war inside a war, where mercy on either side was seldom shown to their opponents. But at least Mr. Ang Lee showed the major cause for it all, in showing the vicious Kansas Jay Hawkers & their brutal raids of plunder & murder throughout Western Missouri, & the bands of Southern Missouri guerrilla's that rose to the fore in brutal eye-for-an-eye retaliatory raids & tactics of their own. Sadly, as this film shows, there were psychopaths on both sides as the films main character, Jake Rodell would encounter one in the form of guerrilla Pitt Mackason. Though fighting on the same side together against the Kansans & union army, the atrocities of the war between the states in this theatre turned Pitt into a raging, out-of-control homicidal sociopath. Col. Quantrill, who led the guerilla raid on Lawrence, Kansas in August, 1863, for the most part,... Read more
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're gonna ride with the Devil.... (Criterion Bluray), November 24, 2013
By 
A customer (North America) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ride with the Devil (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
....he's going to want to drive (spoilerless review)

Who is the devil being ridden with here? Ostensibly it is the "Confederate officer" William Clarke Quantrill, who led a group of rag-tag marauders on horseback during the infamous civilian massacre at Lawrence, Kansas in 1863. Labeled as a psychopath by the north and "the bloodiest man in American history", Quantrill and the massacre serve mostly as historical backdrop here. The real devil in the film is the darkness that lurks in the hearts of all men, a darkness that too easily slips into a fiery stampede of torment, anger, and retribution during times of war.

While many films tackle the "brother vs. brother" aspect of the civil war, Ride goes further by putting its two main protagonists on the wrong side of the tracks. Tobey Maguire plays the son of Dutch-German immigrants who are solidly on the side of the federal government/abolitionists, and excellent Jeffrey Wright (Felix from Casino Royale) plays an... Read more
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Ride With The Devil (1999) Chris

Summary: An intimate and harrowing look at life on the frontier during the Civil War, and the events leading up to the infamous Quantrill's Raid.

4.0


User Rating: 1.5 (1 votes)

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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



One Response to Ride With The Devil (1999)

  1. I really liked this one, especially the chaotic violence and the willingness to show the harsh warfare between communities. The raid on Lawrence was especially brutal. I thought that it became a bit too much of a love story towards the end, but it’s still a very good film.

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