Is there a role that Matthew McConaughey isn’t perfect for? It seems that whatever this man is given; he invariably delivers above and beyond. The silver screens latest slice of political and racial history, Free State of Jones provides this class actor with enough meat he can sink his teeth appearing near impeccable before our eyes, whilst the supporting cast bring fresh, new talent to our screens. Of course, it was never the casting choices that was going to let this one down.
Despite being from the talented man who brought us the incredibly nail biting first installment of the successful Hunger Games – Gary Ross’ Free State sadly doesn’t live up to expectations. This is undeniably a completely different film entirely, but even after the 2 and a half hours of watching – there still seems to be an inescapable void that desperately needed to be filled with something other than lengthy, slow paced dialogue. Using facts and events that actually took place is always tricky and perhaps it was that restriction that leaves you feeling empty after you depart the theatre. As we are introduced to the hardships and harshness of the American Civil War, a medical nurse Newt Knight (McConaughney) works day and night, helping the wounded and the scared. Yet, when the amount of life’s lost surpassed the amount saved, he risks his own life by sparking a rebellion against the Confederacy. Recruiting anyone who was (at the time) as mad as Knight, local slaves and farmers, this small, yet powerful group of people ignited an historic uprising in Jones County in Mississippi.
The longevity of this one is enough to put some people off; albeit due to the subplot of a court case surrounding Knights descendants, the film as a whole didn’t feel too long. Perhaps devoting more time to the case and knocking off 20 minutes of the build-up would have been a better move. Amongst the class story-telling and acting, the whole film is set out in a far too familiar fashion. We are given a formula with only one intention, to equals ‘the feels’. To toy with our emotions; when it was already there in the first place. Such aspects come with such a story and resulted in them seemingly forced and determined, rather than allowing the audience to become lost in the story.
The controversy surrounding Knight’s character and the all important act of helping and assisting black people during a time that the average Joe simply didn’t, gives him a real and raw edge. He spoke out and started a mini revolution – racial liberation, establishing himself as a beacon of hope in America’s text books. This man, through perseverance, dangerous methods and sheer determination created a Free State of Jones with his bare hands – it truly is a compelling tale. An important point in history that changed so many people’s lives, only for it to be ripped away again; it’s heartbreaking.
Free State of Jones seems to be a spot in time that many people brush over, but an important one for all to see. Heart-breaking without being smothering, it’s just a shame that this doesn’t start a flame and rouse us as it should; despite the cast performing their socks off. Such a story certainly warrants such a time limit but for some reason Free State of Jones simply doesn’t reach the heights it was capable of.
Free State of Jones is out 30th September