Good movie. I think it is more for the thinker rather than the action junkie, although there are plenty action scenes. I don't see this movie as something that was meant to garner sympathy or support for the "protagonists," per se. I did feel somewhat sympathetic for them at times, but both sides are presented as ruthless and devoid of much feeling or emotion as they go about their atrocities. And I would assume that was the case in this "guerrilla warfare zone." Neither side were saints. And to make matters worse, there were many involved simply for plunder, personal gain, or because of their outright sadistic nature. The movie does a good job of pointing out what blind allegiance to a cause--any cause--can do to people. There were several lines in the movie that really chilled me and I think have relevance in today's liberal/conservative "war." In fact, I question whether the screenwriter actually intended those lines to be a modern-day observation about blind allegiance and how generations of people are "programmed" to think a certain way.
It was interesting to me that perhaps the worst of villain characters (one of the southern bushwhackers), who was so filled with hate, rage, and nastiness in the early stages of the movie, was by the end of the movie depicted as a defeated, deflated shell of his former self with no fight or grand cause left in him and was essentially committing suicide.
Overall, the movie depicts the war at the personal level. You may well hate the confederates, but what do you expect a peaceful resident of what was the south to do when a federal army comes in and blows his/her family away? As I said, there really weren't any saints in the movie--mostly people reacting to personal/family crisis and being dragged into the "greater cause."
My one criticism would be the stilted dialog at times. It certainly was not the fault of the screenwriter and I have no doubt that the vocabulary was somewhat genuine for people of the time. However, as an actor trying to deliver lines in a foreign language, they are bound to sound stiff and contrived. I'm not quite sure what the director could have done about this. Nobody in our day is used to talking as they did in 1860. Because of that, the actors are going to sound stiff. And of course, although the people of the time did indeed use this vocabulary, they almost certainly wound have sounded more natural in flow as we do today with modern English. Some of the actors were better with the archaic vocabulary than others. I actually thought Jewel did a good job with the lines. And sometimes, the actors who were having a bad time with it did sound more natural at times. But, that is a minor complaint and I'm just glad the movie makers did what they could to try to get the feel of the times right, including the language. Nothing worse than a movie set in the nineteenth century with the actors using modern trashy slang.
Ultimately, as I said, if you are a thinker, this movie will have you considering the conflict, stances, and justification or lack thereof for both parties involved in this particularly heartbreaking aspect of the civil war. My mother's family lived in that particular area (Missouri) at the time and I'm sure their lives were torn apart by the conflict.