Grade A

Based on an incredible, true story that I think most people have never heard of, “Free State Of Jones” is about a Confederate soldier who deserts and creates an army of deserters, runaway slaves, and their families to fight the Confederate Army in Mississippi.

Matthew McConaughey plays Newton Knight, a Southern soldier who has had enough of war, had enough of fighting what he believed was a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight, had enough of Confederate soldiers in his home county of Jones, Mississippi taking almost everything from poor families to supposedly help out with the war effort, and had enough of slavery and all the cruelties that go with one person owning another person.  McConaughey’s insurrection starts off small but dramatic, slowly building up until he and his company are at war with the Confederate States of America.

This movie doesn’t just deal with what happened during the American Civil War, it also delves into the “reconstruction” phase after the war, and the barbaric and ironic aftermath for the former slaves.  Adding further interest and depth to “Free State Of Jones” is the separate story within the movie regarding one of Newton Knight’s descendants (a white man who is part black) who is on trial for marrying a white woman in Mississippi — at the time of the trial, interracial relationships were illegal; and Knight’s descendant, despite looking white, was considered black.   How hypocritical, since white masters often raped their female slaves for hundreds of years while the Southern society turned a blind eye to it.

“Free State Of Jones” is a powerful movie about a small segment of America’s past that should always be remembered.   This story is not just about the evils that men do to one another, it is also a story of hope, love, sacrifice, and redemption.  It deserves to be told.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Free State Of Jones” is the scene when McConaughey, after teaching three little girls and their mother to hold and shoot guns, holds off Confederate soldiers from taking the family’s supplies as “tax” for the war effort.  Now that’s what I call a fine example of the Second Amendment being exercised.

— M