Screening Room: ‘Free State of Jones’

Mahershala Ali and Matthew McConaughey in 'Free State of Jones'
Mahershala Ali and Matthew McConaughey in ‘Free State of Jones’

In 1862, a Mississippi farmer named Newton Knight got sick of fighting for the Southern cause. He gathered a band of like-minded rebels against the Rebels and fought a guerrilla war that (briefly) established a free (of slaves, too) corner of the Confederacy.

Free State of Jones, written and directed by Seabiscuit‘s Gary Ross, stars Matthew McConaughey as Knight. It opens this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

As the saying goes, history is just one thing after another. That’s not true of most historical films. Usually they use a traditional narrative of a hero’s triumph over adversity or tragic end with posthumous glory and dot flecks of history into it only as needed. The history is foregrounded in Gary Ross’  Free State of Jones, an ambitious effort that ropes a cross-racial love triangle and civil-rights saga into a no-holds-barred war film. It isn’t often that you see archival photography or onscreen credits about the Battle of Vicksburg in a Matthew McConaughey film with an eight-figure budget. That occasionally starchy approach leaves the human element lacking at times. But at least it’s all for a good cause: further undermining the myth of the heroic Confederacy…

Here’s the trailer:

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