Free State of Jones

Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
Free State of Jones

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Matthew McConaughey is as smooth as ever in this Civil War-era drama – but the film itself is too loaded with over-eager detail to convince

Is the McConaissance well and truly over? Looks like it: Matthew McConaughey stars in this strident, half-successful Civil War drama, a movie that leans too hard on its star's Southern-fried smoothness (which is getting to be a bit of a joke now). 'Free State of Jones' certainly looks and sounds right, and probably smells right too – all these Mississippi battles and unwashed soldiers feel authentic. The problem, as with McConaughey's performance, is that you always do feel it. The film is in your face, like an over-eager student waving his hand in the front row because he knows the answer.

The irony here is that McConaughey's character – the controversial real-life rebel Newton Knight, a Unionist who broke from the Confederacy while still remaining racist – could have been exactly the kind of complex role the actor needs. For this overlong plot, Knight's rougher edges have been sanded down. There's lots of slave-freeing, speech-giving and interracial-romancing (with Gugu Mbatha-Raw in an underwritten part), but little of the kind of cryptic unknowingness McConaughey is capable of.

Writer-director Gary Ross ('Pleasantville', 'Seabiscuit') knows how to please crowds, so it's fascinating to witness his consistently wrongheaded impulse to add even more historical details: lengthy explanatory scenes, even a leap decades into the future for a courtroom drama involving Knight's persecuted offspring. He loses sight of the powerful drama at this story's heart.


Release details

Release date:
Friday September 30 2016
140 mins

Cast and crew

Gary Ross
Leonard Hartman, Gary Ross
Matthew McConaughey
Keri Russell
Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Users say (2)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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The diversity of Matthew McConaughey is once again on display as he is excellent as a leader of a rebel force and protector of a marginalised people. This movie, based on historical facts, really shows the extent of the unfairness that was rampant in the past. It is not an easy watch as it has a few gruesome scenes, and also a lot of heart-wrenching moments. It was definitely a mistake on my part to watch it during the Christmas period. However, I recommend it if you like great acting and directing and also a movie that is based on real events. It is a real eye-opener and makes me want to read more about that period of time in the USA (before it was called the USA).

I think your reviewer is being a little harsh on this film which I found very interesting and enjoyable. The low key approach worked for me and the issues covered were given space with a balance between action and debate well handled. don't get me wrong this is no Lincoln but a modest film that does a decent job without hitting the heights.

I think they could have handled the flash forward sequences better but in the main it wa thought provoking and reasonably authentic.