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The Free State of Jones | 2016 | R | - 1.7.3

Set during the Civil War, it depicts the attempt to form a separate US state for former slaves and poor white farmers, based on racial and gender equality: A southerner (Matthew McConaughey) and fights alongside abolitionists (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mahershala Ali), escaped slaves and Confederate deserters to declare the Free State of Jones. Also with Keri Russell, Brendan Gleeson, Jacob Lofland, Brad Carter and Sean Bridgers. Directed by Gary Ross. [2:19]

SEX/NUDITY 1 - A man and a woman hug briefly. A man touches a woman's neck as she giggles.
 A man says, "Two people cannot make a baby 1,000 miles away" [from each other]. A man and a woman in a courtroom call out to each other, "I love you!"
 A woman sitting in a church pew has a large belly and we hear that she is pregnant; the camera cuts to her shoulders and head as she screams in labor pains (we see her bare upper arms and a glimpse of both knees in a long shot as we hear a baby cry and later see a clothed baby).
 A woman wears a long dress with a deep V-neckline that reveals a little cleavage.


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VIOLENCE/GORE 7 - Soldiers kneel in a long line and shoot at opposing soldiers while cannons fire balls that cause smoke, fires, and throw dirt into the air; we see the tops of three soldier's heads blow into the air with blood and gore and a close-up shows the wide open skull of a fallen soldier with his face missing and flies buzzing around the opening. Hogs are shown eating out the stomach of a dead man lying on the ground with his back to the camera. Lines of soldiers at Vicksburg with long rifles march straight toward an encampment, stepping over and ignoring several dead soldiers on the ground and additional men who fall dead.
 Three white men chase a freedman through a field as a camera cuts to early morning; the freedman's wife finds his papers scattered and a man finds the freedman hanging from a tree, the camera cuts back and forth to the drooping head in a noose and bloody lower legs where bloody trousers hang around his ankles (the implication is that the three white men cut off the freedman's genitals).
 Several battle scenes contain a lot of gunfire from Civil War muskets and large pistols; we see a lot of smoke and some flashes of fire sparking from guns and cannons several times, as many men fall to the ground. Women in a battle scene load shrapnel of metal screws and scrap iron into a cannon and when it fires, it sets a wall of bags of flour and corn on fire, killing several soldiers that fall backwards off-screen. A teen boy takes a long rifle with a bayonet and fights as his and men's hands shake; the teen is shot in the chest as men fall around him, dead (we see some blood on his jacket as he collapses). A medic carries a wounded 14-year-old boy to a tent and doctors refuse to see him; the medic lays the boy on the grass, prays with him and the boy dies with some blood on his chest.
 Three boys ages 11-17 give themselves up to a colonel to fight but the colonel has them hanged; in a long shot, we see the bodies of two men and three boys hanging from a tree as three women bring straight back chairs to stand on, presumably to take the bodies down.
 A procession of black-cloaked women follows two wagons containing coffins to a church yard, where several soldiers and officers watch: the women pull out pistols and shoot several men in the face (from the back of the soldiers, we see some blood splatter), a woman is shot and falls (presumably dead), men jump out of coffins and shoot pistols as men in the church basement come out with rifles (many soldiers fall and we see some blood), a colonel is shot in the shoulder and the leg and we see a trail of blood on the floor when a man finds him cowering on the floor; the man shoots the colonel four times, removes his belt and fiercely strangles him, then drags him outside by the belt around his throat.
 A man runs from soldiers and tracking dogs; one dog chews up the man's leg and we see blood as the man stabs the dog with a knife three times below the frame (we hear the dog yelp, cry, whimper and go silent), and we see red irritated skin and two large bleeding bite marks as a poultice is placed on the wounds (the bandages around the leg become red with seeping blood). A medic pulls a stretcher with a wounded man to a hospital tent, where we see soldiers with bleeding heads, arms, legs and torsos; we see a bloody saw moving back and forth, presumably in an amputation procedure of an unseen limb, a doctor uses forceps on a man's bloody belly (we do not see a bullet), a soldier holds a bloody rag to an eye, and someone boils bloody bandages that emerge pink. We see the ragged brand of the initials of his owner on the cheek of an African-American man.
 Three night scenes show Ku Klux Klan horsemen burning houses and crosses, beating and shooting black men and women and ransacking houses. A man wears an iron collar with four long upward-pointing spikes on it and a blacksmith removes the collar with a hammer and a wedge and the clanging sound brings soldiers and dogs; the man, the blacksmith and a group of men draw rifles and shoot and kill the soldiers and dogs (we see and hear the smoking shots from behind the dog handlers and see no blood as the victims fall). A man touches a woman's back and she winces, he removes her heavy shawl and we see four long red slash marks on her dress where she had been whipped as she says she refused to have sex with her slave owner, and the man goes to the plantation and to the depot in town, carrying two tall stacks of cotton bales in flames.
 A man teaches three young girls to fire rifles and a pistol; the girls, their mother, and the man line up with guns drawn as soldiers arrive to loot the woman's farm and house; the soldiers leave and we hear that the soldiers ransack all of the nearby houses and farms and take all food, supplies and clothing. Several men and women with rifles take back a wagon load of corn from soldiers. Several men and women take a wagon of corn from soldiers. Soldiers burn down several houses and a church, filling the screen with tall flames several times; we see houses and the church crumble and fall.
 Grainy black and white photos from the Civil War show bodies piled up and strewn across battle fields with captions that state that Confederate AWOLs increased throughout the war. We hear that a deserter amassed a force of 250 men, women, and teenagers to fight the Confederacy, took over three counties in Mississippi, captured Confederate POWs, and took over the town of Ellisville; he sent word to Union General Sherman for help, but the General declined. A man takes the body of a young teen boy home to his mother (she cries) and we see a churchyard funeral where a few men and women wear black and a wooden coffin sits on the ground as a man reads scripture. A funeral features a wooden coffin on the ground as a man reads scripture.
 A man becomes angry over the law that exempts oldest sons from military service if the family has 20 slaves. A man leaves the army, stealing a mule to transport the body of a dead teen boy home. A 14-year-old boy appears in a military camp at night, telling a medic that rebel soldiers looted his home and farm, then drafted him but he ran away; we later hear that younger boys (ages 12 and 13) are drafted. A wanted poster and a discussion state that a hanging order is out on a deserter who formed an armed community. A man tells his armed men that they are to blow up some railroad tracks in front of a train and steal rifles and ammo from the train; one man asks, "Are we going to start killing rich people?" A man objects to working with black people and the leader of the group tells him that he can leave anytime. Men draw guns and force others to provide voting ballots to Republican men. In the 1940s in Mississippi, a man who is 1/8 black is charged with the crime of marrying a white woman and when he argues with the judge, the judge shouts and sentences the man to five years in prison; we read a caption that the conviction was overturned on appeal.
 A group of African-American men with a few white friends march through a town singing "John Brown's Body" while carrying rakes, hoes and other farm implements in a demonstration of their freedom and voting rights; armed white men along the street look on angrily.
 A freedman's young son is stolen as an unpaid "apprentice," and his wife screams and cries while running to a white friend for help; the white man and the father retake the child and end up in court, where the white man shouts at the judge, who shouts back and bangs a gavel; the white man slams a handful of money onto a table and demands to know if it is enough to buy back the boy and the plantation owner says, "Fair enough."
 A red-faced baby screams and cries, as his father says the boy has a high fever; a woman arrives and helps lower the fever overnight.
 The body of a roasted dog is seen on a tree branch above a fire in a camp. The body of a roasted hog is seen on a tree branch; men cut up the meat and we see cooked pork and fat. A black snake slithers out from under a piece of wood, but no one is bitten. We see slaves bring food and rifles to people in a swamp.


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LANGUAGE 3 - 10 derogatory terms for Africa-Americans, 3 mild obscenities, name-calling (Unionist, boy), 9 religious exclamations (e.g. God Loves You, Jesus Loves You, God Bless You, By God, No One Can Own A Child Of God, Sweet Jesus, I Solemnly Swear In The Presence Of Almighty God, So Help Me God).


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SUBSTANCE USE - Two slaves have medicine bags and one slave removes medicinal leaves from his bag. A man has a full whiskey bottle in his waistband and takes it out but does not drink, a woman in a bar pours jug whiskey and several men and women drink, a woman fills bottles with unnamed alcohol, a man enters a bar and gives her a bottle of whiskey, a man offers a woman three barrels of whiskey for her help, and a man in a camp pours alcohol from an unmarked bottle into tin cups and a few men drink. A man smokes a pipe outdoors.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Slavery, freedom, US Civil War, Reconstruction, King Cotton, greed, bigotry, Ku Klux Klan, lynching, Mississippi marriage laws, family, civil rights, inequality, courage, determination, altruism, commitment, understanding, shared goals, justice.

MESSAGE - The fight for freedom in the South began to overcome prejudice, parochialism, human rights violations, and abusive business practices.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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