Ward Allen (Jim Caviezel) gives up the privileged life on a plantation in Savannah, GA to live free on the river so he can hunt ducks.
We start off in 1954 where Christmas Moultrie (Chiwetel Ejiofor) - the last of the free slaves from the Moultrie plantation - tells of his relationship with Ward Allen decades before. Then we go to 1918 and see Ward Allen.
We have an all-star cast with Hal Holbrook as Judge Harden; Sam Shepard as Mr. Stubbs who is the father of Lucy (Jaimie Alexander), who eventually marries Ward Allen; and Bradley Whitford as Jack Cay, a lawyer, who is the listener - and eventual writer of this story - to Christmas and his stories of Ward Allen.
I suppose we are all wondering what there was about Ward Allen to have a movie made of his life so-to -speak and further why would he give up a life of privilege to roam the woods and the river just to hunt and shoot ducks? We must listen and believe, as true, the stories Christmas tells about his friend. And, you must come to know that this friendship was pure gold.
However, this is quite sketchy. We have 3-stories and any one of which could have carried this movie, but it was decided to provide a little something of all three. It is difficult to incorporate everything especially when all three stories have a lot to say. We see Ward's relationship with his wife and this almost turned into a love story, but later that was abandoned; then we see his battles with new government rules and regulations regarding his disregarding them that got him to the courts many times (he didn't believe in quotas for the number of ducks killed or the shooting of a certain type of "protected" duck); then we have the relationship with Christmas and this is where the story should have been centered. It is with this angle that a great legend could have materialized. But, we get only bits and pieces here. Bummer.
It was decided to tell all three stories, sketchy as they might be, because ..well, Ward Allen was "a hell of a man's man" and we do get this perspective from the movie. Maybe that was the point of all this.
The acting all around is very good. The best and lighter moments in the movie involve Ward Allen in court with Judge Harden who has a propensity to overlook Allen's transgressions as we can clearly see that Judge Harden is most impressed with Ward Allen, who by the way was Oxford educated and spouted Shakespeare often. Throughout there are good lines that provide some chuckles.
The cinematography is outstanding regarding the Savannah River background. The ending is somewhat confusing because the movie cannot tell us what really happened to Ward Allen or his wife after his wife was sent to a rest home.
But, to answer the question why abandon the good life for a life of hunting ducks on the Savannah River in Ward Allen's words: The river belongs to us and we to it. It was the only place he felt really free and that was most important to him. (7/10)
Violence: No. Sex: Not really, we see more of a make-out session with his wife. Nudity: No. Language: No.