By Chris Campo
Every year, there are a handful of films that you see a trailer for and go "Hey! That film looks pretty good! I should probably check it out!." But then you never get around to seeing it. Free State of Jones, for me at least, was one of those films. I love Matthew McConaughey, especially lately, and I think Gary Ross has made some fine films - but like I said, I just never got around to seeing it. But I have now seen the film from the comfort of my own home and I am now here to review this film. Oh goody.
Free State of Jones stars Matthew McConaughey as Newt Knight (what a cool name), a soldier for the confederate army who, for reasons I won't spoil, returns home only to be accused of being a deserter. On the run, Knight runs into a group of runaway slaves taking shelter at a swamp. Together, Knight and the slaves build a rebellion to fight against the unfair ways of Confederate Government. Sounds like film of the year potential, right? Oh boy, is that statement false, as this film is a boring and creatively mute experience that I can not recommend unless you're a history teacher, which really shouldn't be the case with such a historically important story.
If I'm being perfectly honest, I fell asleep during this film. Sure, maybe it was my fault as I watched this film at about midnight, but I always watch late films. The problem is that this film is unforgivably boring. Now, I hate criticizing a film for being boring, as many of my all time favorite films are slow paced and don't have an awful lot going on, but this film has a tonne going on! A tonne of interesting and important stories that just happen without much to them, all before the movie suddenly ends. Yes, after I woke up I did continue and finish the film, but I'm still not sure that was the best decision.
The script juggles a lot and doesn't do a great job at it, but the real problem is this film isn't very well made. Gary Ross brings no style to this film. It's not that I want a film with this subject matter to have the style of Kingsman, I just don't want to feel like I'm watching a crappy, low budget History Channel Special. He does some interesting things with time jumps and photographs, but it's nothing that is going to effectively keep your attention. The film is also way too long, and it just doesn't need to be. It's horribly paced and feels 4 hours long. There are some scenes that just feel so obvious and pointless that they should have been cut completely from the film to tighten it up a bit.
On the bright side, everyone acts the hell out of the film. Everyone gives it their all and the cast is the sole reason this film isn't a History Channel Special, it seems. McConaughey's great and there shouldn't have been any doubt about that, although he isn't given much to work with. Sure, he can deliver a great speech, but when all he does is deliver speeches, it gets a little redundant. So yes, McConaughey's terrific, but truly wasted in this film. On the plus side, there isn't ever a scene where you go "Hot damn this is a bad movie." And what I mean by that is that the film isn't filled with awful scenes or cringe-worthy moments, it's just that overall it doesn't come together as a quality film, which is sad because the story that is being told should have been done justice.
Overall, this film is not worth your time. It isn't truly an awful movie, but it's just so boring and uninspired that you would be better off reading historical summaries of the events. Hell, even writing this review was boring and difficult for me to sit through. It has a great cast and it isn't a total train wreck, but this is still not a movie that you should check out.
1 1/2 Stars