Sunday, 2 October 2016
REVIEW: FREE STATE OF JONES
A Time To Be Free.
140 Minutes. Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu-Mbatha Raw, Mahershala Ali & Keri Russell. Director: Gary Ross.
Freedom even comes at a cost. And 'Pleasantville' and 'Hunger Games' director Gary Ross shows you just how much in his new film 'Free State Of Jones'. A real Civil War movie in the year of Captain America vs Iron Man that sees leading man of the moment Matthew McConaughey play real life historical figure Newton Knight. A maverick man who lead a rebellion with freed slaves against the confederate flag in a God damned Mississipi of the 1800's. At 140 minutes this is a long soak through the sodden, dusty, quill inked history books...but that's a dank and depressing directorial take technique to show just how much it took and just how much it will take today for racism to truly end and for true freedom to finally start. This two and a half hour slog shows you just how far we've come, but also just how far we've got left to go. Even almost taking three hours of your time this story has no definite conclusion, because this century long subject matter hasn't either. Matter of fact this film could go on for days...years, however long it takes to make a real difference last. Sure it's painful...but tell me it's not true!
The McConaissance may make it's first real misfire here. Because from 'The Lincoln Lawyer' script flip return to the 'True Detective' series evidence and the classic cameo in 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' to the DiCaprio Oscar steal in the 'Dallas Buyers Club' this is no classic. Perhaps like it disappointingly should be. But just look at the story. This was always going to be more than Matthew. More than a movie. A story of the human spirits triumph against d'evils of the world as stirring as chapters and verses from another Matthew. McConaughey still mesmerizes though. Even if by the next Academy, come Oscars February he won't strike gold like his forthcoming balding bullion dollar picture. From the groundwork of 'Mud' to the moon dust of 'Interstellar' it's clear Matthew McConaughey can go anywhere. Whether it be a whole new galaxy of stars, or down in the everyman dirt of the earth. He can even go back into the history books. Yet here he goes back to his historical redemptive roots of race relations. Legal classics like 'Amistad' and 'A Time To Kill' that made McConaughey's mark on movies before all those rom-coms took him to the career desperation days of how to get a leading man back in 10 days. With a grizzled bear beard and an even tougher resolve, McConaughey's Newton Knight is a saviour in tweed Amish armour. The only thing more weathered than his clothes is the worn look of eyes that refuse to cry, no matter the load the bags carry under those lids. No matter how much he carries on his back. He shoulders all the pain with raw and real restraint. Only to break free when he helps those around him do the same. In this Civil War that's a real hero to marvel.
Those including Mahershala Ali-also of 'Hunger Games' fame, but the 'Mockingjay' parts after Ross' main event. The actor you have seen in such films as 'The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button' and 'The Place Beyond The Pines' in brilliant bit roles is finally having his breakout year with this co-star and more of that Marvel superhero stuff in this age of 'Civil War'. Currently streaming on Netflix right now this guy has no chill, powering up as a villain for hire in the first season of Harlem Defender 'Luke Cage'. Providing the perfect Kingpin like gangster adversary, complete with classic bad guy laugh Ali knocks them all out. Especially those who dare call him by the name he wishes you can't remember like Fisk. But from playing Cottonmouth to refusing to spend a slaves life picking that, Mahershala moves us in this 'Free State'. In an emancipating role that envokes so much from heartbreak to hope and all the way back round again, setting it all free. 'Felcity's' Keri Russell also blooms under a bleak outlet playing Newts wife. The 'Mission Impossible' and 'Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes' one-off franchise star moving from the blockbuster brawn to the brains of this season. Still it's Gugu-Mbatha Raw who is the real rose from the concrete here continuing her career growth. She was strong of heart in Will Smith's 'Concussion' plea to the Academy and the NFL to end last year and begin this one, but this 'Jones' shows just as much of her as an actress that her 'Belle' breakout did. Ross' history lesson is a state of Smif and Wessun gunpowder popping, last century war action reenactments and stories traded in deep dialogue. It's worthy of your discussion as is the matter at past times hand too. Sure this film takes it out of you...it's meant to. Just imagine everything that was taken from these folk before they decided to take it all back. Take your time and see what it truly means to be free. TIM DAVID HARVEY.