Free State of Jones

(2016)

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Title:
Free State of Jones
Release Date:
10th March 2016
Runtime:
139 min
MPAA Rating:
R
Genres:
Directors:
Gary Ross
Writers:
Gary Ross, Leonard Hartman
Languages:
English
Stream Quality:
1080p / 720p / 480p

Storyline

Directed by four-time Oscar (R) nominee Gary Ross and starring Oscar (R) winner Matthew McConaughey, Free State of Jones is an epic action-drama set during the Civil War, and tells the story of defiant Southern farmer, Newt Knight, and his 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.

Ratings

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 43%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience 70%
IMDb Rating 6.7

Casts

Christopher Berry as Jasper Collins
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Rachel
Keri Russell as Serena
Mahershala Ali as Moses
Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by in1984 29th June, 2016

Civil Wars for the Rich

9.25 of 10. The many shades of slave and involuntary servitude come to light in this story. A film that's true enough that it deserves to be something shown to students to help their interest and expand their understanding of American history, but too gruesome, violent, and explicit in language for the typical school. It may also be a little too quiet and slow moving for some, but the depth to which the film explores obscure American Civil War facts and events, both during and after, makes one curiouser and curiouser to see where it goes. This is a rare film that you can watch a trailer of, or not, and not have it ruin the film. In fact, it would be very difficult to anyone to write a spoiler for this. It's also something you want to watch from beginning to end, or at least until the credits shift to white text on black. It may not be the ideal theater film, but it definitely is worthy of a hard copy for your book/DVD shelf.

Reviewed by caseynicholson 28th June, 2016

A Great Historical Drama

I'm surprised to see that this movie is currently averaging 6.5/10 stars--I found it to be worthy of an eight, and I even flirted with ranking it even higher. The movie tells of a counter-rebellion in a Mississippi town during the Civil War, and is based on a true story. The film is done in a style that emulates "Twelve Years A Slave", and as such it deals with topics of slavery and secession in a way that is poignant but also constructive. In fairness, there are a few things that the film could be rightly critiqued for. The opening scenes of the film are fairly gory and filled with wartime violence, but fortunately that does not dominate the movie. As it progresses, the plot of the film does meander a bit, including a fast forward to a scene from some 85 years after the majority of the film that is interspersed throughout the rest of the movie. That technique felt a bit forced at times, but at the end of the film it made more sense why it had been used. Additionally, the movie tells its main tale over the course of more than a decade, which makes for a bit of an odd cinematic journey--but, in my view, none of these issues are so problematic that they greatly take away from the movie. Rather, what we have here is a film that was desperately trying to be Oscar worthy, and that perhaps pushes the creative envelope a tad bit too far. But again, there is more good here than bad. The story that the movie has to tell is both engaging and important--engaging in that it captures your attention and makes you care about the subject matter in a captivating way, and important in that it draws attention to historical facts that you probably were not aware of. I know it certainly highlighted some elements of Reconstruction that were new to me. Regarding acting, this was perhaps not McConaughey's best role, but it's also not his worst. The supporting cast turns out a strong performance, and all in all the movie is well made. That said, I'm going with 8/10 stars on this one. It's not the best Civil War flick ever made, and perhaps pales in comparison with other recent historical dramas like "Twelve Years" and "The Revenant", but it's nevertheless a great movie that deserves a "Very Good" score.

Reviewed by jsaus63304 25th June, 2016

Much better than the critics would have you believe

I have always enjoyed movies based on actual events or real people, so I was anticipating going to see this movie. I did a little research on the history it depicts and it was a part of the Civil War that I knew nothing about. I was quite disappointed when the reviews came out and most of the critics rated it very low. If you are looking for a war drama that is non stop action with lots of battles, massive explosions and bloody scenes from start to finish, you will be disappointed. If you like a movie that has good writing, an actual story and good acting, you will like it. The movie starts pretty much like any Civil War movie with battles, death and bloody bodies, but it progresses past that to the point where some people rebel against the Confederacy for the atrocities they commit against the southern farmers. The story is well told with some actual dates and facts flashed on the screen from time to time which sort of gives it the feel of a documentary. It helps keep things in perspective without being intrusive. If I had anything to complain about, it would be then length and scope of the film. The movie ran about 2-1/2 hours. At about 2 hours, I thought it was over but then it moved into the Klan, voting intimidation and general mistreatment of the freed slaves as well as having a 100 year tie in to future generation. It was as if they tried to jam these events in to make it more politically acceptable to Hollywood. I just felt that they went beyond what the movie was actually to be about.

Reviewed by workbumpf 25th June, 2016

Story of a Southern Unionist rebellion and Reconstruction

I had read Prof. Bynum's excellent books about the Jones County rebellion and so had been looking forward to the movie. Though it, inevitably, changes the story (you'd need a dozen hours to tell it completely), it remains faithful to the spirit of the rebellion and the characters of Newton and Rachel Knight. There were a number of Unionist uprisings in the South during the Civil War (a fact that was carefully expunged from my history textbooks, growing up in the South, maybe to justify all the monuments celebrating the glorious Olde South that lurk around public parks and buildings to intimidate black Southerners - I guess). What other purpose could they possibly serve? To celebrate a defeat? This movie finally points out the obvious: the Confederacy lost the war, but the planter class which owned the Confederacy did their damnedest to win the peace. Instead of being lynched like Mussolini, Confederate leaders returned to their lives, their plantations, just like the war had never happened. Even the slaves they lost were returned to them in the form of unpaid sharecroppers. The misery of the lives of freedmen is one of the strongest images to take away from this film, their alleged freedom snatched from them. No 40 acres and a mule to serve as some form reparation, they went on to endure a century of domestic terrorism at the hand of the KKK. The movie itself is beautifully and sensitively acted and filmed. There are scenes of great brutality but which are never gratuitous. There are also scenes of great beauty. There are scenes which have enormous relevance to politics in America today where racism is the hallmark of one Presidential candidate and income inequality the hallmark of another. Claims by the radical left that this movie is about a "white savior" are just silly. If anything, Gary Ross has eliminated most of the real-life incidents which dealt with Newton Knight's own actions on behalf of freedmen, probably to make the film more palatable to the radical left who, like the extreme right-wing can never be satisfied anyway. I do wish the radical left, rather than criticizing well-intentioned liberals like Gary Ross, would attack the real enemy. The State of Mississippi still incorporates the Confederate flag in its state flag... and social justice warriors are quibbling about degrees of "white saviordom"? Matthew McConaughey hasn't put a foot wrong since Lincoln Lawyer and his performance here is among his best work. American actors are rarely convincing playing period roles but he totally inhabits the role - scraggly beard, greasy hair, terrible teeth and attitude. He looks like the daguerrotype of a tired and desperate Civil War soldier. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has flown too long under the radar: stunningly touching as an early 19th century biracial heiress in Belle and totally believable as a pop star headed for a nervous breakdown in Beyond the Lights, she brings a luminous quality to Rachel a resourceful woman who defined her own path despite the oppression of racist Southern culture. Mahershala Ali's character won't be found in Prof. Bynum's books. The names of the maroons who fought with the Knight Company have been lost to history, so he is a composite character invented by Gary Ross. His character travels from runaway slave to armed insurgent to voting rights activist in Reconstruction. Ali imbues his character with wit, charm, warmth and extraordinary courage. Keri Russell is fine in a small role. She gives her heartbroken character dignity and resilience. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Stewball 24th June, 2016

A rebellion against the rebellion

A powerful action-drama about a local Mississippi rebellion against the Confederate rebellion, brought about by Southern corruption, conscripting men, and confiscating supplies and livestock, without reimbursement, in order to support the army in its fight for the Southern plantation system. The last straw for the main character, Newton Knight, superbly played by Matthew McConaughey, was the passing of the 20 slave law that exempted 1 white man for every 20 slaves—in order to prevent a slave rebellion what with so many white males being off to war. It's a gritty depiction of the sordid underbelly of an already corrupt slave economy. It's a reminder, as if we needed one, of the reprehensible conditions some of our ancestors (on both sides) imposed on their society; but neither justifies either hate or guilt this far removed from it or the Jim Crow laws. It also depicts the courageous good things that others got right. The end of the movie balances things with a political statement when it shows a mixed-race group, armed with guns I must add, marching into town on election day and demanding Republican ballots. It's easy to forget that Lincoln and the Abolitionists were Republicans; while Klansmen (including "former" Klansmen) occupied some of our highest offices, and were allied with Democrats into the 21st Century.