leave a comment --Steve Simels
Lilith Fair babe Jewel's film debut we won't give away what might be called the money shot, but you'll know it when you see it is a moving, gorgeously filmed look at one of the Civil War's more obscure chapters, the quasi-official combat
that divided friends along the Missouri-Kansas border. It's 1862, and Confederate supporter Jack Bull Chiles (Skeet Ulrich) takes up arms, along with friend Jake Roedel (Tobey Maguire), a boy on the wrong side of his pro-Northern father. Eventually they're joined by take-charger Black John (James
Caviezel), the psycho Pitt Mackeson (a very scary Jonathan Rhys Meyers), blue-blooded George Clyde (Simon Baker) and his quiet former slave Holt (Jeffrey Wright), who supports the Rebs out of personal loyalty and gets seriously dissed by them for his trouble. Working from a smart script by James
Schamus (the poetic period dialogue here is one of the film's big pleasures) director Ang Lee structures the narrative around battle scenes as gruesome as those in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (notably a massacre at an abolitionist stronghold) and interludes of great lyrical beauty (a wintry recess from
the war, which is where Jewel shows up). But the film is also centered around Jake's coming of age, which results in a third act that drags a bit as his courage and loyalty get tested. A nicely ambiguous ending and terrific acting by the mostly young cast mostly makes up for the longeurs, however,
and for the record, Jewel acquits herself well in a not particularly demanding role.