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
At the 2015 Golden Globes, Matthew McConaughey was asked about his beard he was growing. The beard he was growing was for preparation for this film. When asked about his beard, he would say "It is for an upcoming project". See more »
When Newton's wife finds him she says that she and the son walked from Birmingham. Birmingham, Alabama was not established until 1871. See more »
A Monumental Piece Of History That Ripples Through Generations
What is a society that knows the price of a man but not his worth as a human being? Probably that's the irony of being an industrial civilization. While it aims to improve the status of mankind, it also requires lot of labour. The cheaper it is, the better. That's where slavery comes into the picture. Slavery is a function of economics alone. Race, colour etc. are merely justifications for it. It's ultimately the conflict between empowered and the weak. Free State Of Jones puts it quite succinctly and with absolute conviction. There's no ifs and buts that blur the issue of freedom. It doesn't try to distract us with metaphors and confusing moralities. Its very clear in intention, much like Newton Knight, who's life this movie is based on.
Free State of Jones is a very entertaining film for its performances. Mathew McConaughey is often joked about for his intense style but in this role is where you can see why he's an Academy Award winner. Never mind those impersonations of him. He is John Woodroof, he is Newton Knight. There are also very astute performances from Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mahershala Ali. It has a slew of characters like in any historical drama but thankfully all are in proper proportions. No wonder it comes from the director of The Hunger Games! Another striking quality of the movie is the soundtrack. Use of traditional as well as original songs bring a noticeable gravity to the narrative.
Apart from the brilliant cinematography and direction, this movie has a unique perspective to dealing with a subject as sensitive as this. It transcends the time and period when this story takes place. While the main thread of the narration tells the legendary story of Knight who goes absconding from confederate army and later creates the Free State of Jones in the midst of raging American Civil War, the other thread follows his great-great-great grandson Davis Knight undergoing trial for mixed-race marriage. Yes, even after 85 years, it was still an issue. When you watch it, you'll find the ridiculousness of it, all the more blatant. Well, this review does not mean to judge the laws of the land nor the way of life of the society. However, if at all you are concerned about the historical accuracy of the film then you should know that its one of the very few period dramas that carries this impressive a list of academic consultants to its credit.
The story of the Free State of Jones is not merely fascinating. It's a glorious story of a glorious man. Much like his namesake who discovered theory of Gravity, Newton Knight discovers something about man. You may understand why it could be discomforting to watch if not with an open mind. It is a jab at the ages of segregationist politics, but unlike most films with liberal agendas, it is not cryptic and morose. Its too direct. Too simple to fathom. It doesn't paint Newton Knight as the saviour but only as a hero that he is. He is as deceived and victimized by the system as everyone else. Only difference is that he had an idea way ahead of his times and he had a chance to implement it. Nature was in favour of the man and even when the times were exceptionally odd for his principles to find ground, he endured. Newton Knight went on to live to a ripe old age of 84 which in itself is astonishing in the 1800s. Thank you Gary Ross for sharing this incredible story on silver screen. Too bad it didn't do well commercially.
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