Free State of Jones has Matthew McConaughey in another drama based on the life of a real guy. This time he’s Newton Knight, a Confederate Army deserter in 1862 who objected to the Army ripping off food and critical materials from citizens to protect rich plantation owners.
Jones is Jones County in Mississippi. The movie covers Knight’s life from 1862-76 and his battle, and that of the farmers and ex-slaves who joined him. They first fight the Confederate Army and later the injustices Reconstruction South.
Knight is portrayed as a post-Civil War civil rights leader.
The grown-up and mature McConaughey is a whole lot more interesting than the pretty boy who graced movie screens in the 1990s and through most of the 2000s. Somewhere between Dazed and Confused and Ghosts of Girlfriends in 2009, McConaughey not only grew up, but he also grew into some meaty parts. He picked up high praise for films like Mud and Killer Joe, and he grabbed an Oscar and other awards for biopic Dallas Buyers Club.
He won’t win an Oscar here, but he’s pretty good, and so is the movie. It’s co-written and directed by Gary Ross (the first The Hunger Games). Ross does a fabulous job of not rushing through the meat of Knight’s life and his many challenges.
The film’s only flaw is a trial set 85 years later in Mississippi, where a descendant is being tried for being part Negro and marrying a white woman. What Ross and his co-writer and newcomer Leonard Hartman are doing is obvious, but the dots aren’t very well connected.
Free State of Jones
Director: Gary Ross
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, Keri Russel
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
It’s rated R for mature themes, violence and gore. It’s playing at the Carmike 12, Regal’s Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Queensgate 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.