UK Release Date: 17th November 2017
Runtime: 134 minutes
Director: Dee Rees
Writer: Dee Rees, Virgil Williams
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J Blige, Jonathan Banks
Synopsis: A pair of veterans of the Second World War return to America to work on a farm in Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with the problem of racism in the South.
Mudbound, the new Netflix movie directed by Dee Rees, is already attracting major awards season attention. It won a special ensemble prize at the Gotham Awards and was singled out for its cinematography by the New York Film Critics Circle. As a viewing experience, it can be split quite neatly into two halves.
The first follows the McAllan family, led by Jason Clarke as patriarch Henry, as he meets and marries Lucy (Carey Mulligan), waves his brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) off to war and leaves the city to run a farm in Mississippi. This first hour is spent mostly on the farm as the McAllans’ relationship with their tenant farmers the Jacksons, whose family has worked on this farm since the days of slavery, develops. Meanwhile, Jamie and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) fight the Second World War in Europe.
The second half of Mudbound unpacks the aftermath of their return from the frontline. It’s an unfurling picture of men dealing with trauma, trying to find their way in the world and developing a friendship irrespective of the racial confines surrounding them. It’s this part of the movie that manages to be outstanding and harrowing in equal measure. Henry and Jamie’s father, Pappy, played by a snarling Jonathan Banks, is a well-realised villain with a deep-seated racism that startles even in an era when his attitudes were rife.
Hedlund and Mitchell also shine as a pair of unlikely friends, bringing chemistry to their scenes together and a subtle darkness and sadness to their time on screen alone and with their family. Hedlund’s is the bigger performance as he battles with his role in the war, while Mitchell also delivers the goods as a man who has left something behind in Europe, is directionless at home and can’t reconcile the racist America he has come back to after he gave so much to fight for it.
The final hour of Mudbound is an engaging and at times heart-rending affair. The only shame is that it takes the film so long to get to it. The first half is an extended scene-setter, which you can’t help but feel would be more useful if slotted in with the part of the plot that deals with the men returning home from war. Cut-aways to Hedlund and Mitchell in Europe are unnecessary when the performances are so strong when they arrive back on the farm.
If you can make it through the first half, which is inexplicably slow when there’s so much talent here, you will find an excellent movie about race, friendship and trauma waiting for you at the end of the journey. That movie is definitely worth the wait.
Pop or Poop?
Despite a slow start, Mudbound develops and matures into a compelling study of racism and the effects of war on men struggling to find their new place in a changed world. Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell shine in complex roles, but it takes an awfully long time for the crux of the narrative to arrive, which is a shame given the talent involved.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.