Friday, December 25, 2009

Movie Review: Ride with the Devil by Ang Lee (1999)

Ride with the Devil is set in Missouri and Kansas during the Civil War, when pro-Southern elements waged guerrilla warfare against the Union occupation of Missouri. It is from the point of view of the Southern "bushwackers" as they raid and harass Union forces and sympathizers.

This has an incredible depiction of guerrilla or irregular warfare, known nowadays as insurgency. You see both sides attack civilians who sympathize or support the other side, or even are suspected of supporting the other side. It is shown in raids against isolated settlements, and massacres of entire villages. The use of language in shaping perceptions of one's own actions as well as the opposition. The fighters going to ground blending into the population and depending on the support of civilian supporters. All of these very familiar to anyone with familiarity of Iraq or Afghanistan in recent history, or Algeria, Vietnam or many such places.

The other theme here is the motivations of the Southern sympathizers. The focus on wanting to live their own way without interference, contrasts to the Union, who would impose their rejection of slavery on the Southerners. The portrait of the Southerners is sympathetic. And the view it shows of insurgency and its brutality, especially on civilians who are caught attacked by both sides with no security, is especially hard hitting. Well done movie by Ang Lee.
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