In western Missouri in 1862, far from the main battles of the American Civil War, neighbour fights neighbour. The "jayhawkers" are pro-union vigilantes; the "bushwackers" their pro-South counterparts. When the father of Jack Bull Chiles, Skeet Ulrich, is killed by a band of jayhawkers, he and his best friend Jake Roedel, (Tobey Maguire), join the bushwackers to take revenge. As time goes by, the skirmishes and minor battles get bloodier and bolder. Jack falls in love with Sue Lee, (Jewel), a young widow; Jake befriends Holt, (Jeffrey Wright), a slave who is so loyal to his master, George Clyde, (Simon Baker), that he fights for the South. It`s a time of confusion and constant danger for these renegades...Ang Lee is a quite exceptional filmmaker; he effortlessly moved from his early Taiwanese films to Jane Austen`s England with Sense And Sensibility and then to Nixon-era America with The Ice Storm. And now, in this at times brutal but always intelligent and powerful film, he explores a little-known aspect of America`s Civil War. You might expect the superb widescreen camerawork of Frederick Elmes, or the fine ensemble performances of a non-stellar but excellent cast; less expected are the authentic period speech patterns and the lucid exploration of a complex situation which, inevitably, sparks memories of more recent civil wars in the Balkans.