Ride with the Devil
Special Edition, The Criterion Collection
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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.
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It was interesting to me that perhaps the worst of villain characters (one of the southern bushwhackers), who was so filled with hate, rage, and nastiness in the early stages of the movie, was by the end of the movie depicted as a defeated, deflated shell of his former self with no fight or grand cause left in him and was essentially committing suicide.
Overall, the movie depicts the war at the personal level. You may well hate the confederates, but what do you expect a peaceful resident of what was the south to do when a federal army comes in and blows his/her family away? As I said, there really weren't any saints in the movie--mostly people reacting to personal/family crisis and being dragged into the "greater cause."
My one criticism would be the stilted dialog at times. It certainly was not the fault of the screenwriter and I have no doubt that the vocabulary was somewhat genuine for people of the time. However, as an actor trying to deliver lines in a foreign language, they are bound to sound stiff and contrived. I'm not quite sure what the director could have done about this. Nobody in our day is used to talking as they did in 1860. Because of that, the actors are going to sound stiff. And of course, although the people of the time did indeed use this vocabulary, they almost certainly wound have sounded more natural in flow as we do today with modern English. Some of the actors were better with the archaic vocabulary than others. I actually thought Jewel did a good job with the lines. And sometimes, the actors who were having a bad time with it did sound more natural at times. But, that is a minor complaint and I'm just glad the movie makers did what they could to try to get the feel of the times right, including the language. Nothing worse than a movie set in the nineteenth century with the actors using modern trashy slang.
Ultimately, as I said, if you are a thinker, this movie will have you considering the conflict, stances, and justification or lack thereof for both parties involved in this particularly heartbreaking aspect of the civil war. My mother's family lived in that particular area (Missouri) at the time and I'm sure their lives were torn apart by the conflict.
IT ALSO helps to know that the UNION JAYHAWKERS were commiting depredations as bad if not worse than the BUSHWACKER GUERILLAS did.
My southern bred spouse objected to the uneducated method of speaking by the main characters who were obviously not from lower class families. Sees this stereotyping as an anti SOUTHERN meme in movies. I pointed out that the author is local to the area and may be trying to capture a local idiom of speech. SHE liked the black character but I felt it was some happy negro southern bs. THIS seems an unlikely situation to.me.
I found the period settings to be very authentic and the period dress also. THE BATTLE sequences were very authentic and I have rarely seen so many horsemen used to good effect. IN this regard it was excellent.
I am amazed that this movie did so poorly in the theatres.
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