Free State of Jones review
I was in the eight grade when I went on a week long trip to the east coast with many students to the east coast on an educational trip. We went to Williamsburg, Virginia and Washington D.C. but we also went to Gettysburg. This was my first hand glace at seeing the fields of where the Civil War was fought. Given the size and scope, I was surprised by how much space both sides had. This was where I learned about ones contribution to the war when the confederacy would be able to simple come onto one’s property to take what they need.
That to me defines everything that goes against America’s dreams and ideals. The government should not have to take from people that are supposedly free. I know your thinking that I’m making some commentary about the troubles of todays government, but I’m mostly referring to the cruelty of the South during the war. If slavery wasn’t awful enough, then common man has to suffer as well. Today’s film refers to someone on the lines that didn’t agree with their own cause, which is something you don’t hear about too often. Does Free State of Jones make enough of an impact to tell an interesting part of the Civil War?
During the early parts of the Civil War, a farmer/medic confederate solider Newton Knight (played by Matthew McConaughey) is feeling disenchanted by what his side is fighting for. He feels that the only ones benefiting are the rich ones who by rule, don’t have to serve as long as they have the right amount of slaves. After his son is shot on the field, he deserts his post to return home to Jones County, Mississippi. It’s here he teaches his family how to use guns against fellow confederates who want to take their share. On the run, Newton is able to escape into a swamp along with fellow runaway slaves.
He learns a lot from runaways like Moses Washington (played by Mahershala Ali) and Rachel (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) about their desire to walk the streets like any other white person. Through the passage of time, more deserters of the confederacy join Newton in the swamps. It’s he who decides to form a militia, and uses his experience to help capturing a large part of land in order to declare their own free state. We get a glace at their lives through the War and parts of the Reconstruction.
What we have here should be an interesting part of history. This should be like a Civil War Robin Hood with plenty of action. What’s strange about Free State of Jones is that it’s simply boring. Instead of action, we are given speeches about race, speeches about being free, speeches about strategy, speeches about relationships, speeches about farming; pretty much a movie with speeches. I think much of the focus was more on being historically accurate then being an entertaining movie.
Director Gary Ross (Pleasentville, Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games) took a strange turn within his writing and directing by not only giving us a visually dull film, but an uninterested script as well. Aside from a lot of speech dialogue, the presentation also makes random jumps to months, years, and even decades latter for another story that could have been cut. McConaughey is clearly trying as is most of the newcomer’s, but with a script this dull, no one could have saved it. Free State of Jones needed to be a fun, swashbuckling tale of a man who fought his own system for the common people. I can’t even imagine a Civil War expert getting into this.
I’ll give this one and a half confederate uniforms out of five. If you’re an insomniac, then Free State of Jones will help you fall asleep. Rather then being a sweeping epic, I felt like I was at school with one of the most boring history lessons ever given.