Ride with the Devil (1999)
Directed by Ang Lee
Based on the novel Ride with the Devil by Daniel Woodrell
Screenplay by James Schamus
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jeffrey Wright, Jewel Kilcher, Jim Caviezel, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Simon Baker
A group of young men join the Southern loyalist Bushwhackers to avenge the injustices they’ve seen at the hands of the Union soldiers.
This is a unique Civil War film based on the novel Ride with the Devil by Daniel Woodrell (Winter’s Bone). The screenplay was written by James Schamus (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and the film was directed by Oscar winner Ang Lee (Life of Pi). The cast features a long list of big stars including Tobey Maguire (The Great Gatsby), Skeet Ulrich (As Good as It Gets), Jeffrey Wright (The Ides of March), and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Mission: Impossible III). Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line), Simon Baker (The Devil Wears Prada), and Jewel Kilcher (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) are also featured.
This is a very tense Civil War drama told with an emotional depth that sets it apart. The story seeks out of tragedy, pain, and suffering of the characters and isolates those moments. This creates a very intense emotional story that really looks for the consequence to the choices every character makes. Unfortunately the payoffs in this movie seem to be brushed over. The strongest moments of the film are often buried underneath a meandering plot. The best moments of the film feature great dialogue but there are an equal number of weaker moments as well. This movie does not provide a bigger arc with a solid payoff. Instead, this one is a series of small moments that exist within a bigger less polished story.
The acting really elevates this one. Tobey Maguire leads the way with a powerful performance that highlights his character’s fear and underlying strength. Another one of the great performances came from Jonathan Rhys Meyers. His role is essential to the movie and he nailed the emotional tone perfectly. Skeet Ulrich and Jeffrey Wright also give great performances of their own in this one. There is also good work in this one from Jim Caviezel, Jewel Kilcher, and Simon Baker. There are so many recognizable faces throughout this movie that really add to the overall quality of the story.
This film combines an astounding level of visual authenticity with a story that doesn’t quite hit the mark. The performances are solid and there are some really great moments throughout this one. If you’re looking for a straightforward war movie this is not the one. While this does capture the essence of war, it is about the unique experiences of a select number of characters. This is a visually beautiful movie with a solid score. Fans of the stars should make sure to check this one out. I would also suggest this to fans of Ang Lee. I give this one 3.3 out of 5 stars.