Mudbound is a new release currently on Netflix (as well as getting an Oscar consideration qualifying limited theatrical run). It’s based on a novel of the same name from 2008. Set around World War II, it shows the different experiences of 2 families, one white and one black, during that time in rural Mississippi. The characters deal with racism, alcoholism, and the struggle to acclimate after their wartime experiences. The film has garnered some early awards season buzz, so I was eager to check it out.
It was written and directed by Dee Rees, who found previous success on the festival circuit with Pariah in 2011. This film featured fantastic performances all around, starting with Jason Mitchell as Ronsel. I had really only known him from his portrayal of Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton, or a small role in Kong: Skull Island. However, he really put himself on the map here. His character’s growth throughout the film really establishes him as an up and coming actor to look for in the years to come. Jonathan Banks, most recently known as Mike on Breaking Bad, had an amazingly impactful supporting role. Garrett Hedlund surprised me here, I was never really impressed with his earlier work, (“Hook” in Pan, Tron:Legacy)but man did he bring it with his performance here. He really sold the difficulties of transitioning to life back home after war time. Post World War II was really just the beginnings of PTSD and no one really knew how to handle it yet, so most turned to alcohol. His struggles, and the relationships he builds with Ronsel and Carey Mulligan’s Laura, are really the best scenes of the film. Mary J. Blige also had a surprising supporting role as Florence. She is not on screen much, and I didn’t even realize it was her at first, but she gave an impressive performance. Especially for someone who is not an actor by trade. Rob Morgan (Turk from the Netflix Marvel universe) and Jason Clarke round out a great cast that all give emotional performances that flesh out the story so well.
Mudbound is as impressive as I’d hoped for. It does start out a little slow, but once you establish the characters and timeline, it really builds from there. It does a great job of establishing what life was like then, and showing the differences felt by the different races at that time. As well as getting into the soldier’s story, which is rarely showed on screen in this way. The different connections and relationships built between a few of the characters will keep you engaged, and you may be shocked by how this film ends. Go check out Mudbound now, so you can be ahead of the game come Oscar time, when everyone will be talking about this movie.
First off, let me say…what.a.movie. Although I found it to be a bit of a slow starter, this movie quickly grabbed a hold of me and didn’t let go for the entire two-hour and fifteen minute duration. This film is, at times, both gut-wrenching and riveting, demands your sympathy and outrage for these characters’ lives and situations, then it plays on your every emotion built up around each character by the end of it all.
Mudbound follows the paralleled lives of two families in Mississippi during World War II and does so in a unique way, pivoting from the points of view of the main characters within the story. Each character is expertly developed and compels what I imagine to be the exact emotion Virgil Williams and Dee Rees hoped for when adapting this screenplay from Hillary Jordan’s novel of the same name. One family, the McAllans – a white family, seems to have it all as they move onto the new farm they just bought but we soon learn that appearing to have it all isn’t having everything, and that even this white family has its struggles. The other family, the Jacksons – a black family, living on the land owned by the McAllans, seem to have nothing but their strong family bond and understanding of the world they leave in, they are rich in so many more ways than the McAllans. Although different in family dynamic and social status, each family says goodbye to one of their own when Jamie McAllan and Ronsel Jackson go off to war.
The two soldiers, despite living different lives both stateside and in the war, bond over their experiences in the war upon returning home to their civilian lives. While Jamie adjusts to life with his abusive, racist father who seems to never be satisfied with his youngest son’s accomplishments. Ronsel has to struggle with coming home to a life of bigotry, prejudice and unequal rights; a life much different to the life he lived abroad during the war, fighting for his country – that has mistreated him his entire life.
Mudbound is not only an insightful film but is also full of incredible performances. From Garret Hedlund as Jamie McAllan to Jason Mitchell as Ronsel Jackson, the actors in this film are power, yet fragile in their portrayals offering a depth of complexity that draws you closer to each character. We cannot forget our two female leads, Carey Mulligan and the incredible Mary J. Blige; although not mentioned yet in this review, these two women have such an impact in this film with the characters they portray and their strong performances in supporting roles.
This film is not only a prediction of mine for a Best Picture nomination, but I consider it to be a strong contender for winning. It did everything for me that I expect from a Best Picture nominee; powerful story, fierce performances and a plot that carries you through until the very end. If you’ve been considering or are considering watching this movie, I fully recommend that you do!!