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Jake Roedel and Jack Bull Chiles are friends in Missouri when the Civil War starts. Women and Blacks have few rights. Jack Bull's dad is killed by Union soldiers, so the young men join the Bushwhackers, irregulars loyal to the South. One is a Black man, Daniel Holt, beholden to the man who bought his freedom. They skirmish then spend long hours hiding. Sue Lee, a young widow, brings them food. She and Jack Bull become lovers, and when he's grievously wounded, Jake escorts her south to a safe farm. The Bushwhackers, led by men set on revenge, make a raid into Kansas. At 19, Jake is ill at ease with war. As his friends die one after another, he must decide where honor lies. Written by
According to Jewel Kilcher, director Ang Lee cast her as Sue mainly because of her crooked teeth, which he thought looked like the teeth a poor woman living in the 1860s would have. See more »
When Jake complains of losing the upper-half of his pinky finger, the brace holding down the top joints of the actor's finger is briefly shown as the camera pulls in on his hand. See more »
On the western frontier of Missouri, the American Civil War was fought not by armies, but by neighbors. Informal gangs of local southern Bushwhackers fought a bloody and desperate guerrilla war against the occupying Union Army and pro-Union Jayhawkers.
Allegiance to either side was dangerous. But it was more dangerous still to find oneself caught in the middle.
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Probably only a non-American could make this movie
I've watched this movie twice now on DVD, and both times it didn't fail to impress me with its unique impartial attitude. It seems more like a depiction of reality than most other Hollywood fare, especially on a topic that is still hotly discussed. Even though it sticks closely with the southern viewpoint, it doesn't fail to question it, and in the end the only sentence passed is that the war is lost, not matter what, and cruelty is a common denominator.
What really makes this movie outstanding is the refusal to over-dramatize. Nowadays truly good movies (in a nutshell) are few and far apart, with mainstream fare being enjoyable (if you don't have high expectations), but terribly commercially spirited. I think this movie comes off as a truly good movie (without being a masterpiece), because it sticks to itself, and gives the viewer a chance to watch and analyze it, instead of wanting to bombard him with effect and emotion to blot out his intelligence. This movie is cool, observant, and generally light-handed in its judgement, which is GOOD.
The story has its flaws, especially Jewel's Character comes off doubtfully, but then again the situation at the time was so chaotic, that for a young widow it might have been only logical to somehow get back into a normal life, even by liberally taking each next guy. Still she doesn't come off as weak, in fact I think she's one of the stronger characters, she's always in control of the relationships, with the men just tagging. And I take it very gratefully that she's not a weeping widow. I believe in the 19th century death of a loved one was something a lot more normal than now. You could die so easily of even minor illnesses and injuries, so the prospect of of someone dying, while surely causing grief, didn't traumatise people like it does now. People didn't seem to build shrines about their lost ones like they do now, and I like that attitude.
My recommendation is for intelligent people to watch this movie, if they are in the mood for something different than the usual hollywood fare. Don't watch if if you want non-stop action or heart-renting emotion.
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