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Set during the Civil War, Free State of Jones tells the story of defiant Southern farmer, Newt Knight, and his extraordinary armed rebellion against the Confederacy. Banding together with other small farmers and local slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy, creating a Free State of Jones. Knight continued his struggle into Reconstruction, distinguishing him as a compelling, if controversial, figure of defiance long beyond the War. Written by
I'm surprised to see that this movie is currently averaging 6.5/10 stars--I found it to be worthy of an eight, and I even flirted with ranking it even higher.
The movie tells of a counter-rebellion in a Mississippi town during the Civil War, and is based on a true story. The film is done in a style that emulates "Twelve Years A Slave", and as such it deals with topics of slavery and secession in a way that is poignant but also constructive.
In fairness, there are a few things that the film could be rightly critiqued for. The opening scenes of the film are fairly gory and filled with wartime violence, but fortunately that does not dominate the movie. As it progresses, the plot of the film does meander a bit, including a fast forward to a scene from some 85 years after the majority of the film that is interspersed throughout the rest of the movie. That technique felt a bit forced at times, but at the end of the film it made more sense why it had been used.
Additionally, the movie tells its main tale over the course of more than a decade, which makes for a bit of an odd cinematic journey--but, in my view, none of these issues are so problematic that they greatly take away from the movie. Rather, what we have here is a film that was desperately trying to be Oscar worthy, and that perhaps pushes the creative envelope a tad bit too far.
But again, there is more good here than bad. The story that the movie has to tell is both engaging and important--engaging in that it captures your attention and makes you care about the subject matter in a captivating way, and important in that it draws attention to historical facts that you probably were not aware of. I know it certainly highlighted some elements of Reconstruction that were new to me.
Regarding acting, this was perhaps not McConaughey's best role, but it's also not his worst. The supporting cast turns out a strong performance, and all in all the movie is well made.
That said, I'm going with 8/10 stars on this one. It's not the best Civil War flick ever made, and perhaps pales in comparison with other recent historical dramas like "Twelve Years" and "The Revenant", but it's nevertheless a great movie that deserves a "Very Good" score.
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