Free State of Jones (2016)


Biography | Drama | War


Gary Ross




Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell, Mahershala ali, Brian Lee Franklin, Jacob Lofland, Bill Tangradi, Sean BRidgers, Kirk Bovill, Christopher Berry, Donald Watkins, Atrial Clark, Manny Penton


Newt Knight (Matthew McConaughey), a Southern farmer and disillusioned Confederate army deserter, returns home and leads a militia of fellow deserters, runaway slaves, and women in an uprising against the corrupt local Confederate government.


Let me start by saying that I am not a huge fan of war movies, and that I don't like Matthew McConaughey. Still I decided to give this film a try because I had the feeling it was Oscar material. And there's something about it that is Oscar material, but not what I hoped.

To be clear, McConaughey once again does an incredible job, but "Free State of Jones" is a bit disappointing as it wastes the potential of a fascinating and untold true story with a mediocre script.

If like me you are unfamiliar with the story - I'm sure I'm not on this island alone -, it will engage you quite immediately with its good start. Unfortunately what was supposed to be an inspiring story about ordinary people fighting oppression, ended up being a tedious and unfocused story that moves way too slow.

I get Gary Ross's choice to devote a lot of time to build up the events leading to the creation of the Free State, therefore giving us enough time to get to know Newt Knight and the people he would come to lead, but he takes too much time. Like a tremendous amount of time. And pretty much nothing happens other than meeting, discussions and speeches.

Another problem is the character development: basically there's no trace of it. In fact, the filmmakers decided to focus more on the elements of conflict and completely forgot about the characters, and they all suffer from it, especially that of Knight that ends up being flat.

But now let's talk about the good things. Like the great opening sequence (the battle of Corinth), the beautiful cinematography, the impressive set design and costumes. 

And the performances, especially McConaughey's. Several times before he has proven to be able to carry a whole film, and he does it again, and even with a mediocre script he is able to give an intense (Oscar worthy) performance. It's impossible to imagine anyone else playing the role. The supporting cast is also quite strong. 

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