Free State Of Jones

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Free State Of Jones
""Every man is a man. It's as simple as that.""

Newton Knight was not a hero. He was a deserter. The year is 1862. The American Civil War was about freedom for the slaves and for the South. Everybody loses, except for Newt, who makes his stand in the swamps of Mississippi and lives to watch his dream die.

Some films need to tell their tale and this is one of them. It encompasses the contradictions of what it means to belong to a free world only to discover the futility of hope when faced with man's inhumanity and fear of change.

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You can call this an antiwar diatribe, like Platoon and all the rest, but that's hardly the point. Newt is an ordinary man, a stretcher bearer on the battlefield. When the teenage son of a neighbour is killed beside him, he walks away. The madness has touched him, the insanity of bloody conflict, and so he hides out in the swamp lands with a handful of escaped slaves.

This is only the beginning. As other deserters find him and more slaves join, the group expands into a force to be reckoned with, up until the point when a Confederate brigade is fearful of taking them on.

The civil war ends and peace proves as unpredictable and dangerous as before, perhaps worse, as the freed slaves are hounded by white men, hooded in the garb of the KKK.

Newt declares a Free State of Jones where white and black have equal rights. Of what? Of their lives? "Every man is a man," he says. "It's as simple as that."

Well, not quite.

Matthew McConaughey, as Newt, gives another memorable performance. He avoids the grand gesture in favour of gentle persuasion.

While you watch you feel uncertain, almost afraid. Promises are broken. Legislation slides across the body of chaos as history scrambles for a foothold.

Reviewed on: 28 Sep 2016
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A disillusioned Confederate army deserter returns to Mississippi and leads a militia of fellow deserters, runaway slaves, and women in an uprising against the corrupt local Confederate government.
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