What started out with a bang, ended up going out in a whim. This film looked like it was going to be a great epic Civil War story, but missed the mark. A total disappointment for the audience as it ends up being a poorly executed film that wastes the talents of its cast by poor directing and editing.
The film starts out with a great reenactment of an epic Civil War battle (an era long gone by) but quickly degrades into a long drawn out examination of slavery and civil rights during the period after the war. Once again, Matthew McConaughey turns in a stellar performance as Newton Knight, a simple Southern farmer from Mississippi who is forced into the conflict but deserts in order to avoid becoming a casualty of war. Hiding out in the swamps with black slaves, refugees and farmers, he shares in their suffering and learns to appreciate their hardships. Becoming romantically involved with Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a black house servant, further solidifies his compassion for the plight of blacks as he fights for their rights throughout the remainder of the film.
Director Gary Ross unfortunately tries to create a historical documentary account and the aftermath consequences by jumping back and forth between a future court fight and the period following the Civil War. The rise of segregationists and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan make it a difficult time to be black as the country struggles into reconstruction.
This confusion weakens the story by introducing scenes that make no sense until the end of the movie. This makes the movie disjointed, confusing, diminishes the existing story, and is unnecessary. It is due to this structure that yields a poor result in the final presentation of the film.
If this film was re-edited to remove this courtroom drama and place it all at the end of the movie, it would be better served, and the audience may appreciate it more as an epilogue. However, that was not the case. It becomes a documentary style film towards the end, which ruins the overall effect of the movie.
I was expecting some really great things from this film, but my expectations fell flat. This movie is not worth seeing at the box office. Wait till it comes out at home theater. Such a disappointment.