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Published August 22nd 2016
Free State of Jones is a war epic action drama based on true events of the American Civil War (1861-1865) and Mississipi's miscegenation laws. Writer and director Gary Ross, along with co-writer Leonard Hartman cleverly intersperse fact with fiction as they follow the life of historical figure Newt Knight, starting with when he fought with then deserted the Confederates in the American Civil War.
Cleverly, the timeline moves forward, some 85 years later (1947) when Newt's great-great-great grandson, Davis Knight (Brian Lee Franklin) is placed on trial for miscegenation after he marries his long-time girlfriend who is white and Davis was discovered to be of black descent (through a child born of Newt and his non-white partner, Rachel).
Matthew McConaughey is brilliantly cast and embodies the character of Newt Knight – consistently demonstrating true depth and spirit of character as an already disenchanted Newt deserts the Confederates with the dead body of Daniel (Jacob Lofland) – a teenage boy from Newt's farming community of Jones County who had only recently been conscripted before he was killed in his first battle.
The story of Newt is well worth recounting as he deserts not only from the Confederates but by necessity his wife, Serena (Keri Russell) and infant son - to the swamp, which at the time harboured a small group of run-away slaves and steadily grew to a large number of people from the local community with similar beliefs and ideals. Together and with Newt's leadership, they engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Confederates and became known as the Knight Company.
The run-time was 139 minutes – I can tell you this time went quickly and left nothing to the audience's imagination, capturing and delivering with brilliant cinematography and authentic attention to detail the significant events which culminated in the Free State of Jones and Newt Knight being revered as a historical figure of legendary proportions.
Free State of Jones brings into play many subtexts, including the impact of conscription, civil war, inequality in race and class, slavery, the origins of USA and its politics and religion (to name a few).
All I can say is see Free State of Jones if you want to experience a truly thought-provoking, brilliantly written and produced movie with impeccable acting. I walked away wanting to know more and it was with delight that I found this site (click here) which was created by director and writer Gary Ross and crew as a companion reader for the movie. I would not be at all surprised and expect to see Free State of Jones nominated for a number of Academy awards in various categories.