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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


Ride With the Devil [Blu-ray]


(Ang Lee, 1999)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Universal Pictures

Video: Criterion Collection - Spine # 514



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:28:44.332

Disc Size: 46,382,690,710 bytes

Feature Size: 42,967,074,816 bytes

Video Bitrate: 32.16 Mbps

Chapters: 27

Case: Transparent thicker Blu-ray case

Release date: April 27th, 2010



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3943 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3943 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround



English (SDH), none



• Two audio commentaries, one featuring Lee and producer-screenwriter James Schamus, and one featuring Elmes, sound designer Drew Kunin, and production designer Mark Friedberg
New video interview with star Jeffrey Wright (15-minutes)
PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critic Godfrey Cheshire and Edward E. Leslie, author of The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders





Description: With this new director’s cut, Ang Lee reconstructs his original vision for Ride with the Devil, a harrowing, unorthodox Civil War epic. Set during the Kansas-Missouri border war, the film follows Jake (Tobey Maguire) and Jack Bull (Skeet Ulrich), who join the Confederate-sympathizing Bushwhackers after Jack Bull’s father is killed by abolitionist Jayhawkers, and find an unusual ally in Holt (Jeffrey Wright), who’s fighting for the South despite being a former slave. A rumination on identity and loyalty, both political and personal, Ride with the Devil is a provocative challenge to preconceptions about America’s bloodiest conflict.



The Film:

Showcasing Ang Lee's versatile talent for making great period dramas, following Sense And Sensibility and the superlative The Ice Storm, the film follows a group of pro-Southern 'bushwhacker' guerrillas on the Kansas-Missouri border in their conflict with the Union-supporting 'Jayhawkers'.

German-born Jake Roedel (Tobey Maguire), his lifelong friend Jack Bull Chiles (Skeet Ulrich), black slave Daniel Holt (Jeffrey Wright) and his friend and liberator George Clyde (Simon Baker) are part of the renegade band fighting in the small-scale war of neighbours. When winter sets in, the four take refuge from the cold in a hillside shelter, where they are helped by young Sue Lee, who brings a little happiness to their chilly existence. In the central role, Tobey Maguire is simply superb, while Jeffrey Wright gives a wonderfully understated performance as the slave fighting for the wrong side. The support is solid, with Ulrich good value in a slightly smaller role, and singer Jewel surprisingly impressive in her first film part..

Excerpt from Nicholas Dawson at Eye For Film located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

There is some inherent softness in the appearance of Ride With the Devil. I wouldn't fault Criterion's Blu-ray transfer. It appears to have been an intentional production choice possibly representing a more 'authentic', less pristine, look with the cinematography, but the 1080P, dual-layered, rendering brings out nature's colors extremely well. Scenery looks jaw dropping at times and some close-ups are impressive for their detail - but overall the sharpness could be considered at the modest end of the scale. The, long, director's cut, of the film still has a healthy video bitrate and contrast exhibits decent black levels. The naturally lit daylight scenes are the most impressive and these dominate Ride With the Devil. The Blu-ray colors almost look too bright at times but I can find no evidence of excessive boosting.  Visually this isn't on par with more modern film transfers to the new medium but as a representation of the original source - I'll wager it is not that far off. Hopefully, the screen captures below will give you a fair idea.

NOTE: Max tells us in email: "I just read your 'Ride with the Devil' Blu Ray review where you mention some softness in the image. The last time I saw the film was in the cinema when it first got released, so I don't recall too much anymore how the sharpness was there, but I do know the film was shot on JDC's 2.35 Research anamorphic lenses, which are based on old Cooke S2 and S3 lenses. So I am not surprised that the film looks soft to you, because quite frankly these lenses are not very good, from a purely technical point of view." (Thanks Max!)





















Audio :

There is a very strong DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 3943 kbps. It can be quite robust at times - never being 'showy' with overly demonstrative separations. There is some heavy gunplay and action sequences and they can jump out (punchy bass) with power but the film also has extensive dialogue sequences that are clean and crisp. The original score by Mychael Danna is quite beautiful and comes through the lossless track sounding majestic at times. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region A-locked like all Criterion Blu-rays to date.



Extras :

Criterion offer two audio commentaries, one featuring Ang Lee and producer-screenwriter James Schamus, and one featuring Elmes, sound designer Drew Kunin, and production designer Mark Friedberg. The first pairing we have heard before in Criterion's edition of The Ice Storm. This is equally as good and they get along well in conversation. It is comfortable covering many aspects and the second has the technical crew and it holds it own with discussing the film's historical appearance, marketing and critical response. There is also a 15-minute new video interview with star Jeffrey Wright (Daniel Holt in the film) who mentions the film's political perceptions among other details. Finally there is a liner notes booklet featuring essays by critic Godfrey Cheshire and Edward E. Leslie, author of The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders - a book I wish I had the time, and inclination, to read.



The violence in Ride With the Devil can tend to polarize the viewer. I was uncomfortable at times but suspect that I will enjoy this more after revisiting it a year or two from now. I think it's a good film but debate on it being a great film - and certainly I've like other Ang Lee offerings much more. This is reporting a realistic-feeling historical document of an important period in American history and Criterion is giving us another complete Blu-ray package. Most who indulge will appreciate the value. 

Gary Tooze

April 11th, 2010




About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze








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