Review by Justin Waldman for Mr. Will Wong
From writer/director Gary Ross (Pleasantville and The Hunger Games) and writer Leonard Hartman comes the latest Movie about slavery and confederation. Free State of Jones focuses on a rebel nurse/blacksmith/fighter as he bands together with new-found friends to take down the Confederation Army.
Free State of Jones’ script is a bit problematic as in an era of political correctness and increased sensitivity to issues of race, perhaps some may walk away feeling a bit offended by its ethnocentricism. Once again, the caucasian man is the celebrated hero and the black people are the supporting cast who help him achieve glory.
The Movie starts off with our protagonist, Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), a nurse for the forces fighting against the Confederates. Shortly after he throws himself into battle against the Confederates, escorting a solider who subsequently dies, triggering a chain of action which sees Newton leaving his wife, Serena (Keri Russell) and then labeled as a traitor. He begins his new life by helping defend other families’ farms against the Confederation Army, but this alas sees adverse effects. He finds himself in the only safe place he can find with Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Moses (Mahershala Ali). After the Confederation Army learns of Newton‘s new-found allies, he is sought for treason and anyone found associated with him punished. With the people wary of the Confederation, they band forces with Newton to take down the Confederation Army led by Lt. Barbour (Bill Tangradi).
The performances in Free State of Jones are its strongest suit. McConaughey, Mbath-Raw and Ali deliver incredible performances. The latter is the Film’s true scene-stealer with his performance as Moses stamping him a force to be reckoned with. Mbatha-Raw while in only a supporting capacity, is phenomenal. Lastly, Tangradi is brilliant in a way that is almost terrifying.
Free State of Jones while trying to maintain a degree of political correctness in telling a story of how the fight on injustice was won, oddly at times is overshadowed by the very undertone the battle is against.
Elevation Pictures release FREE STATE OF JONES on Friday, June 24, 2016.
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