Free State of Jones

2016-07-22 15:12

What it's about:

During the American Civil War, defiant Southern farmer Newt Knight starts off an extraordinary armed rebellion against the Confederacy. Banding together with other small farmers and local slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy, creating a Free State of Jones. Knight continued his struggle into Reconstruction, distinguishing him as a compelling, if controversial, figure of defiance long beyond the War.

What we thought:

The Free State of Jones is an American story. But one that South Africans will understand so well. It’s an extremely important part of history that needs to be seen. 

I fear the serious topic and the 2 hour and 19 minute runtime might keep audiences away – which is a huge pity. 

I’m not a big Matthew McConaughey fan but I can’t deny that his portrayal of Newton Knight was gripping. He makes you sit up and listen and ensures the viewer is fully committed to the devastatingly sad true story.  

The film doesn’t hold back. It shows the truth without flinching in all its gory detail. Starting out with the Civil War and spanning all the way through to the Reconstruction period – The Free State of Jones bravely takes on a lot. 

At times it feels like director Gary Ross tried to tell too many stories at once. 

The first half of the film, focused mostly on the Civil War, takes its time and moves slowly. The closer the film comes to the end the more rushed the narrative becomes. The Reconstruction era, for example, is hastily explored with quick jumps forward in time. 

There’s definitely a lot more to be told here and hopefully not only from the perspective of a white protagonist. 

Although stars like Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Rachel) and Mahershala Ali (Moses) give award-worthy performances, they don’t get enough screen time. I’d love to see more of the story from their point of view. 

Nevertheless, The Free State of Jones is a must-see and definitely worth the time and trip to the cinema. Get ready for an unflinching honest look at America’s dark history that will haunt you long after you leave the cinema. 

Read more on:    matthew mcconaughey  |  movies

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