Free State of Jones Movie (2016) Review

I needed to use movie vouchers and was looking to find a movie in theaters currently to use them before they expired soon. ” Now You See Me 2 ” just left theater and I couldn’t quite convince myself to see “Ghostbusters” on its opening weekend. Not much was out there that I was really interested in but I eventually stumbled upon “Free State of Jones” and the plot intrigued me enough to go watch it tonight.

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Matthew McConaughey stars in this Civil War era movie about a Confederate medic who deserts to bring his dead nephew back home to his mother in Mississippi. He stays deserted because he doesn’t believe in the war or slavery. He finds himself helping other local people hold onto their crops, property, etc from the Confederate Army as the army has been raiding smaller farms, taking more than their  “10% needed” for the war effort. McConaughey eventually becomes a nomadic leader of fugitive slaves and other like minded southerners, fighting the very Confederate Army they used to be apart of.

This movie was based off a true story, but it hasn’t done well at the box office and has received mixed reviews. It was a little slower for my taste and feels a little too long after almost 2 and half hours in length.  I think the movie suffers from too much content trying to be fit in over a course of about 100 years in the storyline. (with about 95% of the storyline taking place between 1862-1876). When you are trying to cover so much content, holes in character development occur and continuity becomes watered down and frayed.

I believe there was suppose to be a love story in this movie, but it never really fully develops; leaving the viewer with awkward exchanges, gaps that aren’t really filled in till towards the end of the movie. Moses Washington was a strong character as and I really wanted to see more of him, as he was a very likable character and seemed to disappear from screen at times beneath the shadow of Newton Knight (McConaughey)

That being said, I don’t consider myself a Matthew McConaughey fan and have really only seem him 1-2 starring roles I enjoyed him at (Lincoln Lawyer for sure is one of them). He was very good in this movie though. He definitely has sold acting chops in this drama; appreciating his character’s strong morality and courage to fight for what he believes is right.

This movie was intense and possibly the subject matter is what turned some people off in going to see this movie. It was very realistic in terms of how African Americans were treated as slaves, treated as free people after the Civil War. It doesn’t paint a flattering picture of America at this time and nor should it.

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I give the director a lot of credit in this respect for being honest, respecting history in showing a darker, uglier side of our country during that era. Although it is quite strange to see the buddy buddy nature of fugitive slaves and deserted Confederate soldiers getting along so well at times in the movie. I enjoyed seeing it, seeing some redemption on screen from all the other cruelty and injustice going on, but I question if that was truly the case historically. (and if it was true, then my hat is off to them and its very cool that was the case)

Still though, I think this was a good movie. It was done really well in some parts and not so well in others. I think is is deserving of a little more positive recognition, but would be a solid rental to see if you don’t want to see it before it departs theaters.

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