From writer-director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Pleasantville) comes this hyper-earnest tale of a disillusioned Confederate soldier who abandons the cause to start an egalitarian community of escaped slaves, deserters and displaced farmers in the waning days of the Civil War. Based on a little-known true story, the film is handsomely made and well-intentioned but continues an unfortunate cinematic tradition of telling the stories of the disenfranchised (blacks, women, etc.) through the eyes of a white male protagonist. Matthew McConaughey and Gugu Mbatha-Raw resonate as leader Newton Knight and his common-law black wife Rachel, but Keri Russell is wasted in the role of Knight’s first wife. A late 20th century framing device with one of Knight’s descendants facing similar challenges is more annoying than illuminating.
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