DIR: Gary Ross • WRI: Leonard Hartman, Gary Ross • PRO: Jon Kilik, Gary Ross, Scott Stuber • DOP: Benoît Delhomme • ED: Pamela Martin, Juliette Welfling • DES: Philip Messina • MUS: Nicholas Britell • CAST: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali
More like the Free State Of Jonezzzz… Yes, I have replaced a the ‘S’ of Matthew McConaughey’s latest film’s last letter of its title with a ‘Z’ followed by a further four Zs. Childish? Maybe. Fact? You’re goddamn right! It would appear that the McConaissance is over. After Free State Of Jones I yearn for the shirtless/slanted stance rom-com McCon. In Hollywood, slavery has become a hot asset rather than a hot potato since Lincoln and Django Unchained in late 2012. Smash it out the Box Office and you can whip, lynch, tar and feather all the blacks you want. It’s hip to be a victim now. Audiences got feels and they’re mulitplying.
Free State Of Jones was inspired by the life of Newton Knight, a Civil War deserted, who teams up with a group of runaway slaves in an attempt to rebel against the Confederacy. This chapter in American history would seem like an exciting film to shoot. Poor whites and poor blacks uniting to fight the forces that oppress them. Well when you read it like that on paper the hair might stand on your neck, but when you see it like it is on screen, you shudder and your hair sheds.
The opening battle scene is very promising. You notice slight influences from Saving Private Ryan and in all fairness, the action sequences throughout the film remain at a high standard. Then why does Free State Of Jones fail? Why was it a box-office bomb? It’s because what occurs between those violent action scenes is just so boring. It’s borderline embarrassing how preachy and one dimensional this film is. These characters and dialogue are so flat and monotonous that even Newt’s great grandson is finding it hard to stay awake flash forwards.
This is textbook filmmaking, and that’s the problem. It literally plays out like some history book edition lacking any cinematic panache. Adaptations of novels or true stories must bring something new that you can only get in the medium of film. Non-fiction limits the filmmakers from going places they could go within fiction so they better bring someting big to the plate. I suggest skipping this class while these folks pat themselves on the back and basque in their rectitude.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Free State of Jones is released 30th September 2016