Cary, NC – Free State of Jones tells the story Newt Knight, a Mississippi farmer who led a group of rebels against the Confederate Army in the Civil War convincingly played by Matthew McConaughey. The film gives a highly detailed account of Knight’s journey but fails to engage and entertain, coming off more as a history lesson than a movie.
Interesting Story, Disappointing Execution
Directed by Garry Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games), Jones has an authentic feel to it that aids the overall story, but Ross can never quite seem to focus on what exactly makes this particular Civil War story so unique and interesting.
McConaughey Continues His Streak
Blame cannot be put on the film’s cast though. McConaughey has been riding high since his performance in 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer and hasn’t looked back. And his performance here is no exception. He is simply captivating as Knight, bringing intensity and raw emotion to the role. It’s been quite a streak for McConaughey these last few years, including an Oscar win for Dallas Buyer’s Club, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Keri Russell (The Americans, Waitress) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion, Belle) give fine supporting turns as well, but it’s Jacob Lofland, who previously starred with McConaughey in Mud, who shines brightest after the leading man. Lofland is a perfect symbol of innocence lost during war and he plays it perfectly – a real star in the making.
Fails To Engage
Even with its great performances and top-notch production value, Free State of Jones just can’t quite hit its mark. Ross goes out of his way to present things as accurately as possible but along the way he forgot to make it captivating. The film clocks in at just under 2.5 hours and it certainly feels like it. With all the talent involved, I can’t help but be disappointed in the end result.
Free State of Jones is not a terrible film by any means, filled with strong performances and an interesting story of a fascinating time. But is never really comes to life, failing to engage as a movie going experience. Unfortunately, and disappointingly, not worth the price of admission.