"Free State of Jones" stars Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell, and Mahershala Ali. Released on June 24, 2016, the film is about a defiant farmer who leads a group of deserters and local slaves in an armed rebellion against the Confederacy.
The film is directed by Gary Ross, who also directed Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, and The Hunger Games. It is inspired by the life of Newton Knight during the American Civil War. This summer has been filled with aliens, superheroes, ninja turtles, and some animated talking fish, so it's nice to see a summer film that focuses on real life history. Walking into this film, I have no idea who Newton Knight is nor have I heard about his accomplishments during the Civil War. All I know is that it's a historical biopic from director Gary Ross. A lot of people who saw this film thought it was really good. I, on the other hand, thought it was interesting, but it does have its problems.
Good performances. McConaughey and Mbatha-Raw were both solid as Newton Knight and Rachel, respectively.
The Civil War era was nicely crafted.
Decent direction from Gary Ross.
The story wasn't strong enough, but still passable.
Uneven pacing in the second act.
Final thoughts: "Free State of Jones" is like a history book that students read at school. Those who aren't really into history will likely doze off in the process. Those who do, however, will find it to be an enjoyable read despite its pacing. I happened to find myself in the middle. The performances, cinematography, and the look of the Civil War era were handled well by Gary Ross, although I felt that it's a bit of a step down from his last film, The Hunger Games. Nonetheless, if you're the type of person who likes to study some history, then I would say it's worth a watch. For me, it's pretty much a rental.