FREE STATE OF JONES
Matthew McConaughey rebels against the Confederate army in the new film based on actual events during the Civil War called “Free State of Jones”
Newton Knight (McConaughey), a soldier in the Confederate Army, charged with bringing injured soldiers to the field hospital. Newton was loyal to the cause until the Rebels dragged his young nephew Daniel (Jacob Lofland) out of his sister’s house to fight the Union army. Daniel ran and made his way to find Newton and his regiment. Knight has a plan to get his kin back home as the fighting is going on they are going to make a break for the woods. Daniel catches a bullet and dies in front of Newton, who leaves his company to go home and bury his family.
Knight learns that a few Confederate soldiers are taking advantage of the farmers in Jones County Mississippi stealing crops, live stock and money. Newton decides to stay and protect his kin. Lieutenant Barbour (Bill Tangradi) and his band of soldiers ride up to steal all the pigs from a farm, only to be greeted by Knight, his sister and her three daughters all holding loaded guns and pointing them at his head. Barbour rides away empty handed, but vows to return with more soldiers to arrest Newton.
Knight says goodbye to his wife (Keri Russell) and son then makes a run for it being chased by slave dogs and soldiers. After sustaining a nasty bite on the led Newton kills the dog with a knife and gets away without his rifle. The local tavern owner Aunt Sally (Jill Jane Clements), patches Knight up and has her boy George (Troy Hogan) take him into the swamp to hide from the army. Newton finds himself hiding with a handful of runaway slaves.
Colonel Elias Hood (Thomas Francis Murphy) refuses to send troops into the swamp to be ambushed and tells Barbour to watch his farm to see if he returns. Knight doesn’t leave the swamp, instead gets guns and teaches his slave friends to shoot. Newton is soon joined by fellow farmers Will Sumrall (Sean Bridges) and Jasper Collins (Christopher Berry) along with numerous other deserters taking refuge in the swamp. Now with a small army himself, Newton starts making raids to accumulate weapons and ammo. Knight also manages to grow crops in the swamp to feed everyone. Quoting the bible, Newton tells his friends that “we are all men… you can’t own a child of GOD” as Knight was hoping to avoid race issues with his army.
Newton and his bandits grow and they manage to take back Jones County from the Confederate forces and he labels it the “Free State of Jones”. Knight helps the Union in the war taking counties back one by one, but his victories are not acknowledged by General Sherman who only sends 100 rifles to continue fighting Hood instead of troops and artillery. Sherman realized the war was coming to an end. Col. Hood began burning farms of the deserters only to have Knight steal crops from plantations and burning cotton being guarded by the army. Newton Knight’s fight was to continue well after the war was over as Mississippi refused to obey the US Constitution and formed the Klu Klux Klan to kill blacks throughout Jones County.
Free State of Jones is an entertaining Civil War drama based on an actual revolutionary that began the civil rights movement in Mississippi providing housing for his former slave friends, helping them vote, form religious groups and protect them from the Klan. McConaughey is perfect in the role of rebel Newton Knight. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mahershala Ali also shine as Rachel, a slave that treats Newton’s sick son and later Knight himself and Moses a runaway slave wanting to get his family back from Texas and turns out to be Newton’s right hand man. Knight teaches Rachel to read and grows closer to her and ends up having a child with her after the war ends.
I recommend seeing Free State of Jones on the big screen, probably at a matinee. It is very long and slow at points but the battles will keep you interested in the story.
Rated R (Graphic Violence, Language)
Running Time 2 hours 19 mins