Movie Review: Free State of Jones

‘Free State of Jones’ is a 2016 American historical drama that tells the story of Newton Knight’s Mississippi revolt against a corrupt confederate government.

Set during the 1861-1865 American civil war (that broke out when 7 ‘slave states’ declared succession from the United States to form the ‘Confederacy’), this is a gritty, violent story about one man’s rage against a system of oppression and prejudice.

 

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Newton Knight and his men formed a separate government called ‘The Free State of Jones’. As well as harassing Confederate officials, they raided the over-taxation loot from the government (food, clothes and livestock) and returned it back to the local farms.

 

Matthew McConaughey stars in this film as the tenacious and driven, Newton Knight. A Robin Hood type figure, he unites army deserters and runaway slaves to form an army that uprises against the local oppressors.

 

Gone are McConaughey’s customary good looks, and in his place is an emaciated, intense, local hero who’s refusal to back down draws people to him to rage against the machine.

 

Supported by an outstanding ensemble cast that includes Mahershala Ali, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Christopher Berry, this is a confident story with an original backbone.

 

I’ll admit that I did have some trouble with the southern accents and ended up turning on the English subtitles.

 

Deftly directed by Gary Ross (‘Seabiscuit’, ‘Pleasantville’, ‘The Hunger Games’) this is a film that walks a fine line between Knight’s enormous frustration and yet great capacity for tenderness.

Despite it’s lack of success at the box office, this is a powerful film about an important period in American history and well-worth watching.

I will however, give it a violence warning for gruesome battle scenes and gritty episodes of conflict throughout the film.

Available on Netflix and here’s the official trailer for you to check out:

 

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