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Born Lucky Studios

a boutique video production and post-production studio

Ride with the Devil

Ang Lee’s Ride with the Devil is a film that has improved with age. A fact that maybe in part due to it being book-ended by two excellent films (The Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). I remember seeing it when it came out in 1999, and not really thinking too much of it, or rather, not thinking too much about it after I saw it.

But more than ten years on, the film is better than before. Maybe that’s due to me being ten years older, or maybe the Director’s Cut of the film is just that much better. (I think it’s probably both.) But there’s something else to being older, or growing up, that is fitting for me when thinking about this film.

For the majority of the film, our hero, Jake Roedell (Toby Maguire), is at war. He is the immigrant son of a German killed by Union Officers, so he fights for the South. He and his friend, Jack Bull (Skeet Ulrich), are fighting on the Western most front of the war, Missouri/Kansas. This goes as well as it can, with little food, provisions and poor (at best) shelter from the winter.

The turning point for Roedell is two-fold. The first is the arrival of Sue Lee Shelley (Jewel) who takes up with Jack Bull and the arrival of William Clarke Quantrill, who leads a murderous raid into Lawrence, Kansas, killing innocents.

These events and how they cause Roedell to grow up, are at the heart of the film. (This theme is similar to one from The Ice Storm.) That is, as an adult sometimes you have to carry more weight than your share, but when you can share that weight, even for a short time, with friends and loved ones, well, that makes the time spend carrying it seem better.

There are solid performances by Ulrich and Jewel (who should act more) and a remarkable performance by Jeffery Wright.


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