Free State of Jones covers the story of an insurrection against the Confederacy during the American Civil War. The movie follows the life of Newton Knight, his friends, and his family. Written and directed by Gary Ross, the film stars Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali and Keri Russell.
Over-all the film has a very solid premise, and covers a series of events that aren’t commonly taught in schools. Especially on the premise of either pro-union rebellions in the South, and of citizens of the Confederacy who resisted the attempts of requisition, and drafting that were common on both sides of the American Civil War. While the majority of the film does take place in the Civil War the film makes a point of moving forward and covering future points in time, as well as the aftermath of the American Civil War and it’s effects on the Knight family.
In a touching display of feeling and momentum the movie presents the inherent problems with fighting against the Confederacy, and how much are people willing to give up in order to stand against oppression, and injustice. When the cast of the characters in the film are presented with impossible odds, and a situation that would break most modern men and women they are forced to take matters into their own hands. The ramifications and difficulties of these particular actions are highlighted throughout the film. The film does a fantastic job in portraying the moral dilemmas that are faced in situations of dire survival and that even in a situation like this people are prone to differing opinions that can result in disastrous outcomes.
Promoting a unique backdrop and a largely untold story is one thing. But does Free State of Jones do a compelling job of making the setting and characters come to life, and keep the audience on the edge of it’s seats? Unfortunately, the film has issues with pacing, and throughout the film it has periods of quick bursts of action and then parts that seem to drag on far longer than they should have. Although, the film is not particularly long in terms of it’s actual length it has a hard time effectively taking a hold over the audience.
Doing a fantastic job at portraying the setting and the characters involved is one of Free State of Jones best components. From the dress and attire of the characters involved to the architecture of the buildings and sets. The setting really jumps to life, and helps aid in the over-all immersion that comes from a step backwards in time to one of the most traumatic time periods in American history.
As far as acting is concerned all of the parties involved do a great job, and provide believable performances that help display their characters feeling of both agony and triumph. Throughout the film you are treated to displays of true courage, and you can feel the very desperation seep through into your minds eye as you take in the film. Matthew McConaughey does a compelling job as Newton Knight from his beginning as a Nurse in the American Civil War until his eventual rise as a leader of men. Ultimately one of the strong suits of the film is it’s emphasis on the interaction of characters during tense moments, and the acting that helps portray the intense bonds that are forged between these men and women under dire circumstances.
Is Free State of Jones a film worth seeing? If you like historical pieces and can forgive some moderate issues with pacing, and are a fan of strong acting performances than you should give Free State of Jones a shot. Although, the film does have it’s problems such as staying too long on particular scenes that causes the film to drag ever onward as the audience continues to lose attention.