Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Now on Netflix: Mudbound (2017)

Mudbound (2017) - Directed by Dee Rees; Written by Virgil Williams, Dee Rees; Starring Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell.

By Kenny Howell

When a film doesn't adapt well from a novel, the reason is often that the filmmakers couldn't create the same world that was on the page visually.

Director Dee Rees has no problem with this in the new film Mudbound, a drama about two families working the same land in 1940s Mississippi. Her rural Mississippi is hot, dirty, filled with insects providing the background score. You feel as if you are plopped down in the place and era.

That is extremely important because it really punches home the themes that fill Mudbound, chief among those being racism and war. The two families are the McAllans and the Jacksons, one white, one black. The McAllans reluctantly have to rely on the Jacksons because of the situation that brought them to the land, which angers the racist patriarch of the family Pappy, played brilliantly evil by Jonathan Banks. The Jacksons are also reluctant, but feel that they have to help, partially because of their goodwill, but also because of their status in the rural Mississippi culture.

Both families have young men who are war age when World War II ramps up. Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) heeds his call and heads off to the war, and Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) does as well. While there, Ronsel is treated as a liberator and falls in love with a German woman. They both return home to Mississippi, Jamie with strong PTSD, and Ronsel to a world that treats him as a prisoner because of the color of his skin. The two strike up a friendship because of their shared service, which causes problems for the families and the community.

The consequences of that are tragic as you would imagine, and just heart wrenching for the viewer. Mudbound places itself among the great family dramas of American cinema, films like Giant, which used to be a staple so many years ago. Rees examines the whole family, letting small bits of voice over from each member of the families to tell their story, not relying on it, but just punctuating those moments that need to be. This is the best film that has been released on Netflix, and a real step forward for them. It should be remembered around Oscar time.

Mudbound is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: ****

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