I made it to the local multi-plex to see Free State of Jones this past weekend. Prior to viewing the film, I had viewed a trailer on YouTube and I initially thought it was a remake of The Outlaw Josey Wales. I must say, it was nice to see, instead, a big sprawling historical epic playing in wide release among the big summer blockbusters.

Oscar winner, Matthew McConaughey stars in this true story of a Civil War nurse/defiant Southern farmer who decides he’s had enough of the class inequality in 1860’s southern America, and takes it upon himself to not only become a deserter, but start his own independent nation, the “Free State of Jones.”  McConaughey’s character, Newton Knight, leads a militia of fellow deserters, runaway slaves, and women in an uprising against the corrupt local Confederate government. Written and directed by Gary Ross, the film also stars  Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali and Keri Russell.

Be prepared for some *SPOILERS* just to be warned.

I found this to be a fairly well produced film overall, and would definitely like to learn more about the back-story of this movie. My only issues include problematic “flash-aheads” that seemed sort of uneven compared to the rest of the movie’s tone. In the film, the Civil War era is interspersed with the saga of Newton’s great-great-great grandson, who is arrested under Mississippi’s miscegenation laws 85 years after the war. Since he is of one-eighth black descent, under the law of the day, he is considered black, and therefore cannot legally marry his long-time sweetheart. He is sentenced to five years in prison, but his conviction is thrown out by the Mississippi Supreme Court rather than risk the law being declared unconstitutional. While the storyline seems important and relevant, the manner in which the “flash-aheads” were interspersed appeared uneven.

Another issue is that the ending was rather odd — it really didn’t come to a conclusion, the story just sort of stopped. I got an odd vibe from my fellow audience members, as if we all collectively thought, “That’s IT!?”

I, nonetheless, still recommend Free State of Jones. The film explores an important subject. And, although the plot of the movie is fiction, the overall story follows the history of Jones County, and many of the events portrayed are true and interesting.

About the Author

Chad Spar
Chad Spar
Charles (known as "Chad" to his friends) Spar is an all-around "renaissance man", having worked in the psychology profession, the publishing industry, and is also an occasional actor. He majored in creative writing at Bowling Green State University, and also studied theater and acting at Ohio State University and Ohio Northern University. He has attended "Actors Creative Training", studying under Richard Brander (who coached such actors as Kevin Costner and Chuck Norris). He currently resides in Ada, Ohio.