Free State of Jones

Rated 2.0

In backwoods Mississippi during the Civil War, dirt farmer Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) leads an anti-Confederate insurgency and later, after the war, openly cohabits with a former slave (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), proudly acknowledging his children by her. It’s a true story, with political and racial ramifications well into the 20th century, and McConaughey and Mbatha-Raw are ideally cast. So much for the plus-side of this disjointed, lifeless movie; its assets (including beautiful scenery well-photographed by Benoît Delhomme) are outweighed by the fact that script and direction are by the spectacularly inept Gary Ross. As with Seabiscuit, Ross falsifies the story when the truth would be more dramatic and cheaper to film; and as with The Hunger Games, he makes even hand-to-hand combat confusing and dull. J.L.