Jan 9, 2018
Today’s movie is the Netflix Original “Mudbound”, Dee Rees’s epic period piece based on Hillary Jordan’s novel. “Mudbound” is set in Mississippi just before and after World War II, following two families. The McAllans are a white family who have purchased a farm in the Delta. The Jacksons are a black family who work as sharecroppers for the farm. The families are joined together, intertwined economically and socially, struggling to co-exist in the racist South.
“Mudbound” features an amazing ensemble cast. Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) and his college-educated wife, Laura (Carey Mulligan) move to Mississippi to pursue farming with his virulently racist father, Pappy (Jonathan Banks), and their two daughters. After arriving, they meet the Jacksons, including Pastor/Farmer Hap (Rob Morgan), his wife Florence (Mary J. Blige), and their three children currently living with them. Across the Atlantic, Henry’s brother, Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) and Hap’ son, Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) are stationed in different theatres.
An ensemble cast can be a strength and a weakness. Each character you add to a story takes away time for other character’s to develop and shine. “Mudbound” avoids this pitfall with smart editing by Mako Kamitsuna, utilizing character voiceovers to dive into each character, as well as the efforts of Dee Rees and co-writer Virgil Williams to develop incredible relationships between the characters. No main character feels underdeveloped and every supporting character is placed well, with particularly strong performances by Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell, and Carey Mulligan.
With well developed characters and relationships, “Mudbound” can effectively address both individual and systemic racism, without overusing racial epithets, nor shying away from the more brutal and direct racism of the time. The relationships also help examine the generational differences, from the entrenched racism of the older generation to the first rumblings of the views which would help fuel the civil rights movement.
“Mudbound” treats the source material and the time period with great respect, creating a successful exposition on historic and current themes. The film has great depth and richness, with excellent costumes and makeup, but some scenes may require more lighting, or perhaps a darker room, for home viewing. Fans of historical dramas will appreciate this film very much, but some graphic scenes may put off some viewers.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (CERTIFIED)
One Movie Punch: 8.6/10
“Mudbound” is rated R and is currently streaming on Netflix.