Free State of Jones DVD ( Studiocanal, £19.99)
In 1861, Mississippi farmer Newton Knight enlisted in the Confederate army. Nothing unusual there, except that, in 1862, he went awol. For much of the rest of the American Civil War, Knight led a company of men that bore his name, a company that fought skirmishes with the southern army, and which allegedly declared Jones County, Mississippi to be independent from the Confederacy.
But what motivated Knight? According to the version of his life put forward in this overlong but impressively staged biopic, he became increasingly unhappy at the way he and his fellow subsistence farmers were treated. Not only were they expected to fight at the front, but what little they did own was all too likely to be confiscated by the authorities. Thus is Knight – played by the charismatic Matthew McConaughey – politicised and begins to suspect he has more in common with slaves than his own masters. As to whether that’s how things really panned out, it’s worth noting this is a mainstream movie so expect a certain amount of dramatic invention. Nevertheless, in telling a story that was suppressed for many years, it also serves as a reminder of the nuances that can get lost in the march of history.
Matthew McConaughey finds his political side in Free State of Jones