Movie Review: The Free State of Jones (2016)

Posted: December 23, 2016 in Drama
Tags: ,

free-state-of-jones

In 1862, farmer and Confederate medic Newton Jones (Matthew McConoughey ) becomes disillusioned with the Civil War after his nephew, Daniel, (Jacob Lofland) is killed in battle.  He becomes further disillusioned when a Confederate soldier Lieutenant Barbour (Bill Tangradi) steals corn from the farms in the area including his own.  In October 1862, after the Battle of Corinth, Newt desserts the Confederate army and meets a slave woman named Rachel (Gugu Mbatha Raw) who helps nurse his son back to health.  Later while escaping Confederate troops, Rachel helps Newt into a nearby swamp, where Newt has his hurt leg repaired by another slave named Moses. (Mahershala Ali) From the swamps of Mississippi, Newt and his band of Confederate Army deserters and slaves continue to battle the Confederate army.  But some of the Confederate soldiers resent fighting alongside slaves, can Newt Jones hold his rebellion together?  Can the Confederate army smash the rebellion within their ranks?

The Free State of Jones should have been an interesting movie, but instead, it’s a long, boring tedious movie.  It tries to be a sprawling, sweeping historical epic.  The epic sweep of this film makes the viewer lose focus, because the events span years.  It also splits its time between Newt’s soldiering, and his personal life, which is messy, to say the least.  Finally, it intersperses the story of Newt’s great-great-grandson, and that throws a further monkeywrench in the linear storytelling.

The acting is just ok.  Mathew McConoughey is a great actor, but he’s given very little to do, for the first hour, he literally does nothing.  There are a few compelling scenes for him in this film, and the viewer sees spark of the great skill he possesses, but those scenes are few and far between,  Gugu Mbatha Raw is not given much to do except gaze longingly at McConaughey which she does dutifully, but all romance is inferred, there is not even a kiss between them, and so there is hardly any chemistry to speak of.  Kerri Russell is wasted, she appears in early scenes, disappears and reappears later in the film.

The director also wrote the film, and its length 2 hours and 15 minutes seems much longer as the viewer is dragged along for every inch of Newt Jones journey. The performances aren’t great, and the film is not well lit, the nighttime scenes seem too dark.

The Free State of Jones:  Not Jonesing for this film.

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