Free State of Jones

"Good"

Free State of Jones Review


Since its true story is still so timely after some 150 years, we can forgive this film for being somewhat dull in the way the events are recounted. Solid acting helps give the characters some soulfulness, and the issues are things society is still grappling with. Writer-director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) may struggle to maintain the momentum of the story with his fragmented script, but he recreates the period beautifully and makes sure that the ideas resonate.

It's set in 1862 Mississippi, as the American Civil War is in full force and medic Newton Knight (Matthew Mcconaughey) finds it increasingly difficult to serve in the Confederate Army. In addition to the rampant racism, he realises that this is little more than a class war: poor men fighting to help the rich maintain their wealth. So he abandons his post and returns home, where he assembles a ragtag militia from escaped slaves and deserters. Together, they claim that Jones County is a free state. Their battles with military forces and angry locals continue long after the war ends. But Newton and his second wife Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) keep fighting against the state's blatantly racist laws.

This story is intercut with another series of events 75 years later, as a descendant of Newton and Rachel fights a courtroom battle in which he's criminally charged with marrying a white woman, even though he's only one-eighth black. This sideroad has nothing to do with Newton's story, other than to connect it loosely to America's civil rights protests in the 1960s, so it drastically slows down the entire movie. There's a lot happening with Newton, but filmmaker Ross never quite lets a scene build up some momentum before cutting away to something else.

This fragmented approach undermines the excellent performances. McConaughey dives fully into his role as the true believer willing to give his life for his principles. And Mahershala Ali is terrific as his ex-slave friend who's trying to make his community stronger. So it's rather frustrating that the always superb Mbatha-Raw is sidelined in an underwritten role.

The film has a lot to say about things like terrorism, gun violence, endemic racial prejudice and political corruption. Even more pointed is the commentary on a society in which the majority is enslaved by a ludicrously wealthy minority. In other words, even after all of these decades, our society still has a long way to go. This is an important message, but it's shouted so loudly that this worthy, well-produced film never quite comes to life.

Watch the trailer for Free State Of Jones:



Free State of Jones

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 139 mins

In Theaters: Friday 24th June 2016

Budget: $65M

Distributed by: STX Entertainment

Production compaines: Larger Than Life Productions, Vendian Entertainment, Route One Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 46%
Fresh: 58 Rotten: 69

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Scott Stuber

Starring: as Newton Knight, as Rachel, Mahershala Ali as Moses Washington, as Serena Knight, as Daniel, as Sumrall, Brad Carter as Lieutenant Barbour, as Miss Ellie, as Prosecuting Attorney, as Jasper, as Amos Deason, as Quitman, as Injured Soldier, Carlton Caudle as Confederate Color Guard, Martin Bats Bradford as Freedman 1, Matthew Lintz as Matthew Yates, Kerry Cahill as Mary, as Annie, Juan Gaspard as Confederate Soldier, Liza J. Bennett as Junie Lee, David Maldonado as Polling Station Clerk, Serenity Neil as Schoolgirl, Lawrence Turner as Chester, Lara Grice as Mrs. Deason, Wayne Pére as Col. Robert Lowry, Jim Klock as Farmer 1, Emily Bossak as Town Folk, P.J. Marshall as Sergeant, Ritchie Montgomery as Third Man, Mattie Liptak as Stillman Coleman, Jill Jane Clements as Aunt Sally, Thomas Francis Murphy as Col. McLemore, Johnny McPhail as Old Man, Bill Tangradi as Lt. Barbour, William Mark McCullough as First Man, Sam Malone as Edward James - Cotton Field Worker, Kylen Davis as Boy at Alice Hotel, Will Beinbrink as Farmer 2

Also starring: ,

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