Ride with the Devil (1999)
Ever since Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee has been praised for his skill at subverting big American myths. But even much earlier, Lee made intelligent, challenging cinema. Case in point: Ride with the Devil, a lesser known Civil War film, starring Tobey Maguire in one of his breakout roles, as well as several other stars of the 90s (Jewel – remember her?; Jonathan Brandis – RIP).
Ride with the Devil has all the ingredients of an epic historical war film: battle scenes, horses, costumes, even a love story (sort of). So it seems strange that it would have been such a failure at the box office. But here’s my explanation: the subtlety of the outstanding scenes that convey the overall theme of the movie – the loss of innocence – was lost on most people. That’s a pity because Ang Lee has the gift to turn scenes that seem irrelevant to the plot into deeply profound moments of beauty and despair. For anyone looking for a more thought-provoking take on the Civil War, I highly recommend this movie.