Ride With the Devil

Bomb Rating: 

I thought I might lose consciousness. The fear of Jewel reading any of her poetry was that strong.

There have been few films that have put the fear of God into me; literally made me sit in my theater seat prior to the film starting and shiver like a naked man during an Everest blizzard. My eyes turned blood red. My heart began to beat like an aroused hummingbird's. And when the projector came on and the first scenes of Ang ("The Ice Storm") Lee's Civil War epic began, I thought I might lose consciousness. The fear of Jewel reading any of her poetry was that strong.

Jewel plays a widow who takes care of Jack Bull Chiles (Skeet Ulrich), Jack Roedel (Tobey Maguire), and ex-slave Daniel Holt (Jeffrey Wright), as they hide out near the Kansas-Missouri border ready to fight again for the "Bushwackers" a pro-Confederate band of soldiers. The possibility of Jewel reading some poetry seemed rather high. After all, there's not much to do in the little cabin except talk. As a result, these are horror scenes of the highest caliber. Even the actors looked scared of Jewel.

But thank the Lord Jesus and all the little angels up in heaven because Jewel never reads any poetry, she just occasionally whips out a breast to feed her baby while Roedel watches like a man watching the sun rise for the first time. This, in fact, is mostly what the movie focuses on -- sitting around. Lee's point appears to be that even during a war so partisan as the Civil War, the actual day-to-day experiences of the people are so personal that their allegiances are of little consequence.

Lee has been reading too many history books and if he wants to teach history then he should go do it. All I want to see in a Civil War movie are Union soldiers charging their Confederate opposition, bayonets raised, and emerging with enough raw meat to feed their dogs for the rest of their lives. By exposing ambiguity in a popular culture format, Lee just confuses all the idiots out there into thinking there might be more to the Civil War than "Union good, Confederates bad." Remember, Ang, we need these people around to skew the curve in our favor.

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