MOVIE REVIEW: Free State of Jones (2016)

Free State of Jones is true tale set in time of American Civil War which follows Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) as he fleas the army after devastating death of his young nephew and is forced as a deserter to hide in swamp in attempt to save his own life. There he meets and befriends runaway slaves, Moses (Mahershala Ali) amongst them and with help of a slave girl Rachel ( Gugu Mbatha-Raw) they start an armed rebellion against forces of Confederacy. As ”taxes” of Confederacy grow and local farmers are being left with nothing to survive with and often with burnt down farms and houses, more and more people join Newton and his band in swamps leading the whole Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy and create Free State of Jones.

Even though the movie didn’t go well with the critics I found it a moving and inspiring story. Matthew McConaughey¬† once again amazed me with his acting as he brings it all to the screen as a rebellious historical figure Newt and gives maybe performance of his life. But it wasn’t just him, whole crew was perfectly chosen if you ask me. I enjoyed watching a rising star of Hollywood, Mahershala Ali. His character Moses is such a complex personality. So proud and yet so humble, a man who rose above all the hatred and became a true symbol of love and righteousness. Ali has shown us a new face and I think we yet have to see what he has to offer.

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But let’s not forget the female side of the cast. Gugu Mbatha-Raw was a perfect choice for female slave Rachel, who beside all the suffering and abuse done to her by hand of her master Eakins (Joe Chrest) still has a will to not only live, but to survive and to fight for her rights and freedom. I loved her wish for education and her struggle to, as a grown woman, learn for the first time how to read and write which she had to do hiding, which are some thinks we take for granted.

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I must emphasize how authentic it all looks. It didn’t look like costumes were made for this movie, I got the feeling that they pulled all the props from some museum somewhere. Whole movie breads Civil War, beginning with all the soldier uniforms in first battles and Confederacy officers uniforms all the way to old and worn clothes of poor farmers and slaves. In one of the scenes you can actually see McConaughey’s yellow and black teeth, which really struck me because usually no matter the time and place in movies everybody has impeccable smiles, but not in this one. Here you can see attention to even the smallest details. All through the movie there are stamps of time and date and place, some historical facts about that time, subtly reminding us that we are watching a story about real people and their lives, giving even more to authenticity to the movie.

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I was so blown away with Free State of Jones. It didn’t only show blood, battles and war, it moves past that and see that nobody actually didn’t win that war and how much more black people had to suffer and fight to get their rights of education, of voting, of owning property and in the end owning their own lives and being free. And the director gives us a sneak peak in the future and future generations of Newton Knight and their struggle for their rights reminding us that our fight for equality isn’t over yet.

This is a story of pain and suffering. This is a story of brave people who couldn’t take it anymore. This is a story of rebellion. This is a story that will leave you breathless. Watch it, learn from it and let it inspire you to be a better person and to love and respect other races, religions and people because we are all equal.

In the end here is a quote from the movie that really stuck with me said by Newton Knight when he pronounced Free State of Jones:

“From this day forward we declare the land north of Pascagoula Swamp, south of enterprise and east to the Pearl River to the Alabama border, to be a Free State of Jones. And as such we do hereby proclaim and affirm the following principles. Number one, no man ought to stay poor so another man can get rich. Number two, no man ought to tell another man what you got to live for or what he’s got to die for. Number three, what you put in the ground is yours to tend and harvest and there ain’t no man ought to be able to take that away from you. Number four, every man is a man. If you walk on two legs, you’re a man. It’s as simple as that. “