• Guy Jeffries

Free State of Jones Review


Director: Gary Ross.

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Mahershala Ali, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell, Christopher Berry, Sean Bridges.

Gary Ross, writes and directs, what feels like a very personal project, about the tail end of the American Civil war where confederate freedom fighters (or deserters being on which side you're on) band together to fend off an unfair and tyrannical regime.

Matthew McConaughey plays Newton Knight, a confederate soldier during the mid to late 1800s, in the thick of the American civil war. After realising the bigger picture he defects and essentially rebels against anyone who doesn't stand for the simple rights of freedom.

It starts off well, being a little reminiscent of Roland Emmerich's Patriot, but then it surprisingly jumps timelines confusing the story slightly as the point of why isn't made very clear at all until the very end, losing the impact it should have had.

The film felt like a documentary at times or just a compilation of cutscenes. It is educational and is good display of the atrocities that occurred during America's bloody history, but as a film, it felt it lost its way, quite like the lead character.

The performances from McConaughey, Mahershala Ali and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are very good with some strong emotional scenes but I think it lacked the spectacle a blockbuster like this should have leaving the film feel unfinished, as there's no real conclusion.

Ali's Moses was brilliant, as was Mbatha-Raw's Rachel, both being slave runaways and eventual freedmen, but doesn't feel like there was a good balance between the characters, possibly owing the poor plot structure. There's parts where you're wondering what key characters are doing or sometimes the opposite, how they reappear further down the storyline.

Viewers expecting a level of action will be disappointed and whilst acknowledging it's not suppose to be an action epic like The Patriot, it actually teases the audience with impeding fights only to fast forward past battles. I'm assuming the movie budget couldn't afford the scenes, especially when there is action it is well shot and choreographed, but I can only think of two instances.

The films no means short with a running time of 139mins, that's a lot of film to fill with facts and little action, making the story drag and the jumping cutscenes become more frequent towards the end making it feel rushed.

Nicholas Britell does quite a powerful score with somber strings, gentle guitars and piano, creating a good atmosphere for the time and mood. The locations are great, especially the swamp and the costumes appearing highly accurate, mostly being filthy, ragged and battle torn.

The production appears to be immense, and whilst everything filmed, is of a high standard with strong performances, it's just an unfortunate shame it lacks the impact, or a clearer, better structured story. Yes, certainly very educational, but could have been better executed.

Running Time: 4

The Cast: 6

Performance: 8

Direction: 8

Story: 5

Script: 6

Creativity: 8

Soundtrack: 7

Job Description: 2

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

Would I buy the Blu-ray?: No

54% 5/10

#GaryRoss #MatthewMcConaughey #MahershalaAli #KeriRussell #ChristopherBerry #SeanBridges #NicholasBritell #GuguMbathaRaw