Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell, Mahershala Ali, Brendan Gleeson
OUR RATING: ★★★☆☆
Action drama written and directed by Gary Ross. Inspired by a true story, set during the Civil War, Free State of Jones (2016) follows defiant Southern farmer, Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), and his extraordinary armed rebellion against the Confederacy. Banding together with other small farmers and local slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy, creating a Free State of Jones. Post war Knight subsequently formed a relationship and marries former slave, Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and effectively established the region’s first mixed-race community. Knight, continued his fight into the post war period, resisting Klan activity through Reconstruction. His legendary rebellion distinguished Newton Knight as a compelling, if controversial, figure of defiance long beyond the War.
Newton Knight: It ain’t just for us. Black, white, rich, poor, it’s for everybody.
Daniel: Are you going to be there with me tomorrow?
Newton Knight: Yeah, I’m going to be there with you tomorrow, hear me? I’m going to be there with you tomorrow.
Newton Knight: [to Daniel, on the battlefield] You go fast and you stay close to me.
Will Sumrall: [referring to Daniel] He died with honor.
Newton Knight: No, Will, he just died.
Confederate Soldier: How come you ain’t up North fighting?
Newton Knight: I’m tired of it.
Newton Knight: One man’s fight in a rich man’s war.
Confederate Soldier: You know they shoot deserters, don’t you?
Newton Knight: They shoot everybody here anyway. It makes no difference where the bullet comes from.
Newton Knight: I’m tired of it. You, me, all of it! We’re all out there dying so they can stay rich!
Newton Knight: What a man grows with his own two hands ought to belong to him, yeah? How does the scripture go, Jasper?
Jasper Collins: It says from the Book of Galatians, “Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
Newton Knight: What you sow you should reap. What you put in the ground you should take out of the ground. Now they say they’re taking ten percent.
Corn Field Worker: No, they leave us ten percent, sir.
Newton Knight: Leave ten percent. Do you think they’re taking ten percent from that plantation owner over in Natchez? Huh? Do you think they’re taking ten percent from him?
[the crowd replies no]
Newton Knight: How about this, what do you say we go out there and we pick it clean? There’s a hundred of us, we could pick it clean all in one day, can we do that? Now we pick it clean, we hide it away, we divide it amongst ourselves later on, meanwhile by the time they get down here we done scatter. How does that sound to you? Who’s corn is it? I mean who’s corn is it? Who’s corn is it? It sounds like perfect charity to me. Find a red cob, get a shot of corn whiskey!
Newton Knight: Are they runaways?
Rachel: Ain’t you?
Mary: Tax collectors are coming around here taking everything. We’ll have nothing for the winter.
Newton Knight: [holds up his rifle] Girls, do you know how to shoot one of these?
Confederate Soldier: [referring to Mary and her two girls pointing their rifles at him] It’s quite an arm you got there.
Newton Knight: Last time I checked the gun don’t care who’s pulling the trigger.
Rachel: [to Knight] Why do you always got to fight everybody else’s fight for them?
Newton Knight: I’m going to die so they can get rich.
Moses Washington: That’s why we left too.
Newton Knight: Mr. Moses, what are you?
Moses Washington: A free man, captain.
Newton Knight: Sure is.
Newton Knight: No man ought to tell another man what he’s got to live for or what he’s got to die for.
Elias Hood: I don’t have the patience if five for six deserters are hidding out in a swamp. Just hang them.
Sergeant: [at the funeral of the three hanged deserters] See anything?
Elias Hood: He’s out there. They won’t miss this.
[suddenly the women pull out their weapons and start shooting, and Knight’s army comes out of hiding and start attacking]
Newton Knight: This fight’s for our children and their children’s children.
Newton Knight: Gentlemen.
Confederate Soldier: [Knight’s men point their rifle at the confederate soldier] You’d kill a man for some corn?
Newton Knight: He’s asking if I ought to kill a man for some corn. I don’t know.
Newton Knight: See her, lieutenant, you steal our corn we got nothing to feed the hog. If we can’t feed the hog we got nothing to put in the smokehouse, we got nothing to put in the smokehouse we starve in the winter. That’s murder, ain’t it? You know what the penalty for murder is, don’t you, lieutenant?
Confederate Soldier: Yeah.
Newton Knight: Hm?
Confederate Soldier: Yes, sir.
Newton Knight: Yeah, you do. Thomas!
Thomas: Yes, sir.
Newton Knight: Come here. What rank did I make you?
Thomas: Corporal, sir.
Newton Knight: [takes off the soldier’s hat and gives it to Thomas] You’re a lieutenant now.
Newton Knight: From this day forward we declare the land north of Pascagoula Swamp, south of enterprise and east to the Pearl River to the Alabama border, to be a Free State of Jones. And as such we do hereby proclaim and affirm the following principles. Number one, no man ought to stay poor so another man can get rich. Number two, no man ought to tell another man what you got to live for or what he’s got to die for. Number three, what you put in the ground is yours to tend and harvest and there ain’t no man ought to be able to take that away from you. Number four, every man is a man. If you walk on two legs, you’re a man. It’s as simple as that.
Newton Knight: [hiding out in the woods] Alright, everybody in half cock? Eli? Malachi? Alright, now you ain’t going to have a chance to reload, so make your shot count. Alright, here they come. Go to full cock. Wait for my word.
Newton Knight: [the men arrive with their dogs] Now!
[they shoot the men]
Col. Robert Lowry: They’re poor farmers, deserters, who frankly, sir, don’t have much to lose.
Rachel: The winds are shifting and you can’t fight it this time.
Newton Knight: No. There’s plenty left to fight for.
Newton Knight: These men are here to vote and they’re not, they might dine a whole lot less than you do.
Col. Robert Lowry: They pulled all of Jones, Jasper, Perry and half of Smith County.
Chester: How is that even possible?