Saturday, January 13, 2018

Movie Review: "Mudbound" (2017)

Director: Dee Rees
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes

The lives of a black sharecropper and his family intersect with the white family who owns the land they work on, leading to friendship, hardship, and conflict in the Jim Crow south.

It is always good to remember there was a time when America was a really shitty place to live for a lot of people, that it wasn't always such a great example of the idea that "All men are created equal." While our country still isn't perfect, movies like "Mudbound" bear painful reminders that it's a little better than it used to be. This movie is directed by Dee Rees, who also wrote the screenplay along with Virgil Williams. It is adapted from the novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan. The film stars Jason Clarke, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, and Jonathan Banks as the members of the McAllen family. Joining them are Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige, Kennedy Derosin, Frankie Smith, Joshua J. Williams, and Jason Mitchell, who make up members of the Jackson family. Henry McAllen, played by Clarke, owns a large plot of farmland in Lousiana. The Jackson family rents a piece of that land from the McAllens and use it to tend their own crop. There are times when the families get along as the Jacksons offer assistance to the McAllens on several occasions. Jamie McAllen, played by Hedlund, and Ronsel Jackson, played by Mitchell, eventually become good friends as they bond over their time served in WWII. The relationship between these two families starts out peaceful, at the very least tolerable. Unfortunately, the eldest McAllen, Pappy, played by Banks, is an awful scumbag piece of shit racist KKK member who makes it his business to let the Jacksons know that he is an awful scumbag piece of shit racist KKK member whenever the opportunity presents itself.

It's hard not to notice right off the bat that "Mudbound" is a beautifully shot piece of cinema. Cinematographer Rachel Morrison has done a brilliant job with her stunning, breathtaking, award-worthy camerawork. This is an extremely powerful and emotional story that can elicit anger and tears at the same time. The acting is great. Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell are fantastic as two WWII veterans battling moments of PTSD and the constant memories of their fallen fellow soldiers. These two fine actors are not getting their proper dues and recognition, and we believe their performances in any other year would garner award-worthy praise. Mary J. Blige is also wonderful as she offers a very strong presence even in her moments of silence. Really, the whole cast is nothing short of tremendous. With all that being said, there are a few problems with "Mudbound" that happen mostly in the first act. Dee Rees takes a lot of time to build each character, and though this makes the audience feel for them, it also causes the pacing in the first half of the film to be dreadfully slow. It isn't until Jamie and Ronsel return from their tour of duty that we really started to become engaged with what was happening in the film. Luckily, what winds up occurring will draw you in so you are completely enthralled, saddened by, and outraged with the entire second half of the movie. It is in this latter half where all of the hard-hitting moments will swallow you up and take you through a gamut of emotions until you lose control of them completely at the film's climactic moments.

Despite a slow start, "Mudbound" makes the wait worthwhile. This is definitely one of the better movies to come out on Netflix in 2017. It is full of spectacular performances, harrowing scenes, and iconic, award-worthy cinematography.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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