Free State of Jones is a stirring & impassioned historical drama that eschews the romanticization of the South during & after the Civil War & views with clear eyes & with critical distance the horrors of its era. The film makes the bold attempt at Marxist class commentary &, despite its heavy exposition & the occasional didacticism, favorably values objectivity over psychology & largely avoids Hollywood heroics.
Gary Ross makes his direction far more mannered and focused than its ever been before and Matthew McConaughey gives an unsurprisingly tender and effective performance amidst a brutal, blood-soaked looked at an intriguing, if divisive, historical figure many history books may have overlooked.
One of the most bizzarley constructed functional narrative's I have ever seen. Surprisingly the dramatic conflict does not end with the civil war but only escalates into the reconstruction period; additionally the film is unexpectedly based on objective history. It's possible Luchino Visconti, or Micheal Cimino could have crafted nation defining cinema here yet this film lives with it's own true empathy.
Takes what could be an interesting discussion about the complexities of exploitation but reduces it to massaging slave history - of masters, white southern lower class folks & slaves - to a view of class struggle that extracts the nuance of the period. Its attempt to tell us "another side" actually makes the whole situation into an absurd Hollywood streamline which is very satisfying for the white American conscience
I like odd history, but The Free State of Jones offers a cinematically well-polished piece of his-fic in a boring package. The grandchild court case subplot had absolutely no true purpose in the main story. Overall, it falls flat underneath the shadow of greater war films--in part due to a lack of on-camera struggle through conflict, in part due to a lack of character breadth.