Saturday, November 25, 2017

[Review] Mudbound

Netflix's Mudbound is a sweeping and richly-detailed 1940s period piece that trudges into the deeply rooted conflicts and racial tensions under the cloud of a troubling Jim Crow shadow.

Directed by Dee Rees, this particular southern saga digs into a dispute between a black family and a white family who are pitted against each other over neighboring land stretched across the Mississippi delta. The film has quite a literary feel to it, as it pages through chapters and changes perspectives with the guide of multi-character narration.

Of those perspectives are the McAllens (played Carey Mulligan and Jason Clarke) and the Jacksons (Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan). Each family has a member returning from war -- Garrett Hedlund as Jamie McAllan, and Jason Mitchell as Ronsel Jackson. It's these two that happen to form a forbidden friendship, and their bond is devastatingly tested amid the lingering effects of shameful history, slavery, and the hatred that still runs throughout town. And then there's Jamie's extremely despicable and racist father (played by Jonathan Banks, "Breaking Bad"). Let me just say: No one would blame you for wanting to punch this guy in the face.

It's a painful, maddening, and moving portrait of an ugly time. Like 12 Years a Slave and The Birth of a Nation before it, this is often a difficult and harrowing watch. How tragic to see a black soldier return from war only to be persecuted by townsfolk, and to see his closest, most confiding friend suffer similar punishments just for associating with him. A lot of the heft here comes from the powerful performances. The cast is more than solid all-around, but it's Hedlund and Mitchell that emerge as standouts, especially as the story shifts most of its focus toward them. I was also very impressed with Mary J. Blige -- she's almost unrecognizable in this heavily dramatic role.

Even though Mudbound takes place nearly 80 years ago, it holds themes that still echo today, reminding us that we've come far -- but not far enough.

( 8/10 )

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