Free State of Jones (2016)
Based on true events, Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) was a farmer/nurse fighting in the south during the Civil War. After the death of a boy whom he couldn’t save, Knight deserted the Confederate Army and hid away from authority. Slowly by surely, several more people deserted the war and found company with Knight. As the group became bigger and bigger, they began to interfere with local army officials and soon got the attention of the General himself. It appeared that nothing could stop this local band of outlaws as they fought to free the land they lived on, calling it the Free State of Jones (County).
McConaughey does a great job in the lead role and the support he gathers is wonderful. The setting, costumes and time period is captured beautifully, but you can’t help but feel like something is missing. In what looks like it is going to be a high caliber action war movie similar to The Patriot, Free State of Jones is mainly a glorified documentary of Newton Knight’s life. There is minimal action and more talking than anything else. I couldn’t help but feel bored from time to time because this movie begins to feel repetitive after a while. What I mean by repetitive is, at the beginning, people deserve the army and join Knight and then some more people do the same. We witness how these people learn to live together in the swamps, but that is about it. As the conflict with the Confederate Army arises, the repetition becomes a back and forth between the 2 as they take jabs at one another. Either through killing, robbing, hijacking or outsmarting, these events seem to go nowhere as they are simply “you did this so I’ll do this back” behavior. The movie seems to spin its wheels too much and I wish it had more of an exciting direction.
The part of the movie after the war is when I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Similar to the TV show John Adam, after the war ends, I was done being invested in the story. The movie was already almost 2 hours long at this point and the filmmakers felt more needed to be tacked on. This movie is too long and that is where it will lose the audience. It needed to be about 110 minutes total but it runs 30 minutes longer and boy do you feel it sitting there! Because this movie doesn’t have a natural incline leading to a thrilling climax, it will become stale and bland. This isn’t to say that the movie is “bad” but it is too much for what it needed to be. At the end of the day, Free State of Jones will bring awareness to a Civil War figure thanks to Matthew McConaughey, but other than that, nothing else will be remembered. Co-starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell, Mahershala Ali, Sean Bridgers, Thomas Francis Murphy, and Christopher Berry.
5/10 Stars – Even with a strong performance from McConaughey and cast, this movie seems to be a series of problems with not real direction in sight.