Free State of Jones

I screened FREE STATE OF JONES last Thursday night, and really debated with myself if I would share a review or not. It wasn’t that I felt the film, which was released nationwide in theaters on Friday, was bad. However, I do have some reservations about my judgement due to the content and theme of the film, and the timing of its release prior to the Sundance hit THE BIRTH OF A NATION – which will portray the true story of real life African-American slave/preacher/activist/martyr/hero Nat Turner on the big screen.

In “Free State of Jones,” Matthew McConaughey plays Newt Knight, a Mississippi farmer who, after losing his teen nephew in a battle and realizing the poor are fighting a “rich man’s war,” leads white farmers and runaway slaves in a revolt against the confederacy during the Civil War.

Academy award-nominated writer/director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, Big) heavily weaves a story that puts on display Knight’s civil rights efforts, his falling in love and taking as common law wife a slave named Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and even introduces (somewhat awkwardly about a quarter of the way through the film) an alternate storyline, which finds his great-grandson embroiled in a 1948 court battle and accused of committing miscegenation (marriage of two people from different backgrounds, in this case black and white).

McConaughey, Mbatha-Raw, and several of the rebels – especially Mahershala Ali as escaped slave Moses – give outstanding performances, despite the fact that it felt like the movie was inserting every piece of information Ross located about Knight’s actions after the war – which made it drag like an after-school special that should have been two parts instead of one.

Add that to the fact that I’d already felt like this was just another version of the white hero saves the day story, which seems to have no problem getting greenlit in Hollywood, and it certainly didn’t help my skepticism – or the fact that I admittedly checked my watch at least three times during the 2:19 minute run.

With all that said, the fight scenes were compelling, and I appreciate that, in his storytelling, Ross didn’t omit that it would not have been paradise amongst the rebels – where including slaves was concerned. Again not a bad film, just one I would have preferred to watch in the comfort of my home versus the theater.

But Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” on the other hand…I’m just saying, there with bells on.

That’s my take, but you know the drill – would certainly appreciate hearing yours in the comments!

Until next thought, Thomasena







  1. Well, my husband was the one whom wanted to see this film, so when I won the passes he was on top of the world! We did enjoy the film, however my husband did “check his watch at least twice”! I do think that the African Americans “needed” someone like Newt Knight to stand up for & with them! Alone, they would have just been killed……I just don’t think they would have gotten as far if Newt was an African American. Everything isn’t white or black, there are some gray areas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing that Earlene! Glad I was in good company with watch checking, LOL! My observation wasn’t as much about there not being “gray areas,” as it was about equal portrayal of the stories greenlit for big studio films. There are stories, I personally admire Venture Smith’s for one, of slaves who held their own and lived to tell the tale. Unfortunately, we know Nat Turner’s forthcoming movie will have a much more tragic ending; however he incited others and had a lasting impact. I personally would like to see equal telling of those stories, but what we often get is watered down and has to have a white lead to carry the film.


  2. I am so not interested in the great white hope theme of any movie. Tired and can’t wait to see THE REAL…Birth Of A Nation….remember the first movie of this name had us eaten’ watermelon and shucking’ n’ jivin’. ALL HAIL NAT TURNER!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thomasena, since reading your posting I have unsuccessfully been attempting to purchase or download the movie “The Birth Of A Nation”. Any suggestions?
    btw, I applaud your courageous review on the movie “Free State of Jones”! I am not really familiar with our black history but considering what I do know I believe that our black people’s role in fighting for our civil rights and freedom from slavery is down-played in movies! That is to say it eloquently!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Toney! The Birth of a Nation comes out later this year, but best believe I will try to get advanced screening tickets when available! You can click the hyperlink on title in post to view the latest trailer.


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