It’s been a while since I reviewed a movie, but you all know how much I love history, and I was THRILLED to get to attend a screener for the Free State of Jones this past week. It opens today at the theaters, so if you are intrigued, like I was, to see how they would portray this true story, I would make it a date night and head over. Drag your American History students along with you if you want to make it a homeschooling lesson (please none younger than 15 – there is graphic violence and gore).
One thing I loved about the movie right off the bat – Matthew McConaughey is the lead. He portrays Newton Knight, a white southern farmer who led a surprisingly successful rebellion against the Confederates during the Civil War, despite being nestled deep in southern territory and getting little help from the Union. The film covers not only the war, but the period soon after with re-construction and segregation, giving clear depictions of racism and the harsh battles faced by African Americans and those who believed, like Newton Knight, that everyone who could walk on two legs was a “child of God”.
No man oughta tell another man what he’s got to live for, or what he’s got to die for.
~ Newton Knight, Free State of Jones
I knew Free State of Jones was going to be good just based on Matthew McConaughey being cast, but the rest of the acting in the movie was great as well. I didn’t know many of the other actors, but the movie kept me engaged and I really thought they did a great job in how they did not try to infuse an agenda – they just told it like it was for the people who lived it, sticking to the facts and not candy-coating. There was so much ugliness no matter what side you looked at.
My take-away from the movie, and one reason I loved it so much, was that Knight chose to do what he felt was right – even when others around him were against him. He stood for what he believed in and was willing to die for it, even long beyond the war. He spoke out and took up arms to defend others and himself from what he believed to be injustice and evil. He was a man of action and gave up comforts and did the right thing even when it was hard.
If you want to do a little historical soul-searching yourself, prior to purchasing your tickets, there’s a meaty article over at the Smithsonian with plenty of details you might not learn in the movie itself.
There was nothing civil about the Civil War. It was gritty, dirty, painful, confusing, and left casualties of the soul for those who didn’t become casualties themselves. I believe in studying history so we are not doomed to repeat it… and the story of the Free State of Jones needed to be told. I’m thankful that it has been made into a movie and believe it needs to be seen. We are nothing if we do not learn from our past; not to hold grudges or bitterness from either side, but to admit our faults and pray to heaven that we move beyond them into love for each other and good will. The more we know about this era – grey, blue, white, black – the more we will understand our fellow man and prevent the future from ever being so bloody.
For the homeschool mom or parent considering bringing along a teen: The movie was very good about how they portrayed relationship issues (there’s hinting of sexual mis-conduct, but no scenes that would prevent a teen from being able to view the movie). Like I said above, there is graphic violence, even one shot showing a man who had taken a canon ball in the face and numerous scenes in a makeshift hospital on the battlefield with men missing limbs and having surgery performed on them. It is one thing to know these events happened, and quite another to see them!
Check out the trailer here…
Disclaimer: I was able to see a free screener for this movie, but was not compensated in any other way and all opinions are my own.
Credits: All images in this post are property of Free State of Jones movie and not taken by me.