Movie Review: “The Free State of Jones”

Free-State-of-Jones-01-1-1024x683By Lyle Foster

Unite Contributing Writer

Ok….I admit it…..I am a sucker for the slave era Civil War type story.  This period of our nation’s history was so volatile and for people of color such a difficult pivotal era.  The piece that almost floors me is that even still there are so many stories that are being uncovered about events from this period and movie plots being developed.  Recently the movie 12 Years a Slave would be an example of this.  Obviously a part of this reason is that film makers and producers are recognizing that there is a tremendous appetite for this kind of narrative.

The movie Free State of Jones is difficult to watch in some respect because of several graphic war scenes and the experience of the slaves is always problematic in so many respects.  But the story itself is so fascinating and the fact that it is based on a real story and event that took place is in some ways mind boggling.  I had never realized this event took place and in Mississippi no less.  The story is so intriguing that I had to spend a considerable amount of time after watching the movie to look up the story that the film is based on.  Obviously the movie is not line for line the way events occurred but rather loosely based on a true story.

And the story is a remarkable one…about a white poor farmer who questioned for whose benefit the Civil War was occurring and as a result became a deserter and became a spokesperson for a group of outcasts during the Civil War and a period after.  Eventually he became a leader of a three county area that declared themselves to be a free state and every man to be free.  The film also depicts a bit of the Reconstruction period which is another fascinating and unusual period of our nation’s history.

Don’t get it twisted the film is not all about entertainment and telling a good story there are some fundamental truths about life and who we are as a nation and how we got there that is worth the movie itself.  In fact the development of the storyline in the film is so strong that I think one of these hot summer afternoons I need to go see it again because it makes you think.

I would really be interested in your take on the film if you get to see it….the toughest of the graphics are at the beginning of the film in some of the war scenes so once you get through that it is not as violent in most of the parts.

The character in the film Newt Knight has descendants who are alive and well today and you can read about many of them and there are some family structures that are fairly surprising that really took place.

Matthew McConaughey plays the lead role and an actress named Gugu Mbatha-Raw that I am not familiar with are the main characters in the film.  They both do an outstanding job.  There are a number of other actors and actresses that are in the film who are in smaller roles consisting of a number of whites and blacks.

I am not sure how the film is going to do with the summer blockbusters it has to compete with but if you can process the reality of the Civil War for some of the violent scenes the narrative of this film is one to learn about.  It is a good film and well done and a very important story that needs to be heard.  It is also significant to have this awareness that in the middle of this horrific part of our southern history a few people stood up and made an interesting stand.

Films like this expand our understanding and help us to learn more about the stories of our past that still speak to our present.  And again we get to see more about the experiences of our ancestor slaves and freemen and women and what the story of their lives was like.

I’m glad ….really glad that I got to learn this story.

93 out of 100