Free State of Jones is a shockingly incompetent film, not due to any sort of technical incompetence, but due to the overall lack of a narrative line. The film simply meanders from point to point, inexplicably wandering through decades of history without giving any emotional weight to the story or characters. What’s disappointing is that there is good content here, and has the makings for a great miniseries or documentary, but completely fails as a three act film.
Newton Night (Matthew McConaughey) is a drafted Confederate soldier who’s brought to the frontline of the Civil War. After his son is killed, Night begins to question the reasons for fighting, starting an inner rebellion of soldiers against the rich Confederate aristocrats. It’s an admirable story, but Director Gary Ross’s decision to cover so much time that the real life story doesn’t feel respected, and feels much less personal and powerful than it should be.
The word “boring” may be a childish description of the film, but there’s simply too much content, and while much of it is good, it’s just jammed together, forming a loose collection of scenes that rarely relate. Matthew McConaughey delivers an excellent performance, and while the cast is uniformly excellent, the weird time gaps seems to impede character development. The film is a letdown, an unfortunate squandering of an inspiring true story. Grade: C