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Free State of Jones

✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

China, Korea, United States · 2016
2h 20m
Director Gary Ross
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, Keri Russell
Genre Action, Drama, History, War

Opposed to slavery, Confederate army medic Newt Knight would rather help the wounded than fight the Union. After his nephew dies in battle, Knight deserts and finds refuge with a group of runaway slaves hiding out in the swamps. Forging an alliance, Knight leads a rebellion against a corrupt local Confederate government.

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What are critics saying?


Consequence by Clint Worthington

On top of trying to be a Big, Important Film, Jones is also meant to be a showcase for McConaughey’s post-Oscar relevance as a dramatic actor, and he turns in a solid but unmemorable lead performance.


IndieWire by David Ehrlich

Too robust to sink into the rhythms of a character study, but too financially limited to tell a story that matches the sweep of its director’s vision, Free State of Jones is a film divided against itself, and it cannot stand.


Entertainment Weekly by Joe McGovern

Ross wants to shake up the format­—notably with a few scenes set 85 years after the war—but like so many directors who have tackled ­historical social issues before him, he confuses noble, cornball sermonizing for art.


Charlotte Observer by Lawrence Toppman

The movie remains quiet and deliberate, a synonym for “boring” in some minds (though not mine). In the end, it becomes an allegory for the times in which we live.


Variety by Owen Gleiberman

For all the ravaged surface appeal of McConaughey’s performance, the character is a little too good to be true, but then, that’s just the sort of movie Free State of Jones is. It’s a tale of racial liberation and heroic bloodshed that is designed, at almost every turn, to lift us up to that special place where we can all feel moved by what good liberals we are.


TheWrap by Robert Abele

That you may learn a good deal about an unusually driven man, but never quite feel emotionally connected to him, means Ross has hit a workmanlike middle, crafting a handsome textbook more than a blood-pumping portrait.


Screen Daily by Tim Grierson

Although occasionally stirring, the film rarely rises above the level of intriguing anecdote, resulting in a deeply drab drama enlivened somewhat by Matthew McConaughey’s empathetic performance.

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