Mudbound is a powerful American epic, and perhaps one of the most emotionally stirring films of the year. The film is a brutal watch at times, uncompromising in its depiction of racial brutality and PTSD, utilizing compelling storytelling techniques to spread the story out amongst its impressive cast. It’s rare that an epic like this is able to balance it’s ensemble so well, and it’s the cast that elevate the characters into memorable, dynamic people.
The film tells the story of two families, one black and one white, that live near each other in the American South in the 1940s, showing their interactions and conflicts as they coexist. The entire ensemble is superb, but the standouts are easily Jason Mitchell and Garret Hedlund, two sons who serve in World War II; these actors sell the brutality of conforming to traditional living following the horrors of war, and their bond upon returning home is the film’s most uplifting element.
Despite having the scope and scale of an epic, the film’s runtime never feels overbearing, and the transitions between the cast allow the film to never bore the audience with one particular storyline. The film builds towards a haunting conclusion of violence, and while the film addresses racial tension in an extremely effective way, it avoids trivializing the issue or presenting anything as cut and dry. It’s a powerful experience, and the emotional journey of Mudbound is one worth taking. Grade: A-