Review: “Mudbound” (2017) NetFlix

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Dee Rees upcoming release ‘“MUDBOUND”, which has come with much film festival acclaim behind it – came off as a cliched and deathly slow-paced film about racism in post-WWII Mississippi. And while I’m not going to say it doesn’t make some great hard-to-watch storyline points, it also misses a lot.

We’re on a mud-drenched farm, owned by Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) a racist and small-minded man and wife Laura (Carey Mulligan), whose marriage was basically an arrangement as she was unmarried in her 20’s, which in this time & place, was almost as unforgiveable as being African-American. They come to live there with their two daughters, and his cruelly racist but caricatured ‘Pappy’ (Jonathan Banks), while the youngest brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), is off fighting in Germany. Also living on the farm are the black tenant farmers, The Jacksons, the father Hap (Rob Morgan), wife Florence (Mary J. Blige), along with their children, whom also have a son off fighting in the war, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell). And from what we gather, Ronsel is experiencing far more freedom than he ever found in the USA, which I kinda have to call horsepucky on as truth & history be told, they really didn’t.

The plot of the story, such as it is, sees Jamie and Ronsel return from WWII to completely different receptions from the town and begin to form a friendship through their shared trauma. Clearly nothing good is going to come of this due in a huge part to this being 1945 and in the backwoods of ALL backwoods in Mississippi, which is run entirely by the KKK and in due course we get a searingly violent scene set to a beautiful gospel hymn. In fact, it seems to kinda be an unintentional irony of this film that all the really truly horrifically crappy stuff happens either in church or when set to a hymn. There are some moments of absolute terrifying horror that I am sure really did happen to many who defied the KKK ruling back in those times. These parts of the story are the ones that break you and actually make this film come out of it’s slow draw into actual story-telling drama. I think the ending is meant to be uplifting, nonetheless, but I found it all rather patronising and fantastic – made to be as if Germany post-war was an utopia of racial harmony when nothing could be further from the truth.

Overall, this is a long drawn-out film, whose paper-thin characters can’t stand up to the weight of history thrust upon them. The stand-outs of those characters though are Hedland & Mitchell, both of whom make this film a better by their performances. Mulligan’s character comes off as superficial, annoyingly whimpering at times, but does redeem herself by showing her character to actually have a heart. I was completely looking forward to Mary J. Blige’s performance, but as such, found it to be glaringly at odds with the time frame of the picture as she wears a pair of designer sunglasses throughout most the film. Probably one of the best parts of the film is the cinematography by Rachel Morrison, as it’s crisp, gritty and very believable. Mostly though, the film comes off as an unvarnished understanding of the unglamorous, subservient pragmatism needed to survive as a black man in ’40s Mississippi, but it just isn’t very compelling or convincing as such.

Grade: C+
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Media Review Screening – Thursday, October 8, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Emmanuel Bates Communications & NetFlix
“MUDBOUND” will be out in selected theaters and available on NetFlix starting Friday, November 17, 2017

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REVIEW: “THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE” (2017) Universal Pictures

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Let me just start off by saying I went into this with perspective of it being a war movie. And it partially is, but it’s also so much more than just that. It’s more about post-service life for the brave men and women who make the decision to defend our country, as well as the impact it has on their spouses, children, friends, etc. It shines a harsh light on the inefficiency of the VA and how difficult it can be for veterans to receive the help – especially mental and psychological – that they desperately need.

The film, based on a true story, opens with an operation on an Iraqi street that goes horribly wrong. The exact details of the incident are rather hazy but are central to the events that will follow. A trio of soldiers, Adam Schumann (Miles Teller), Will Waller (Joe Cole), and Tausolo ‘Solo’ Aeiti (Beulah Koale), are returning home after their stressful and dangerous tours of duty. Adam returns to his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett) and their two young kids, though money worries and other domestic issues are at the forefront of their relationship and his mind. Solo returns to his wife Alea (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who wants her husband to settle down and father a child with her but he has it in his mind to return to the battlefield and be with his ‘brothers’ as according to him “The Army saved his life” and it seems that’s all he knows. And finally we have Will (Joe Cole), who returns to an empty house, his fiancé having moved out and emptied his bank accounts without a word. Though each man is a trained soldier capable of putting on a brave face, the trauma from their time on the battlefield and their attempts to get help are met by a bureaucracy that is beyond overloaded with no true help in sight.

The performances were all on par all the way around and with them the storyline was not only gut-wrenching, but kept me riveted for the entire movie. This might not be an Oscar type film, but it is going to get very high marks from me because of the subject matter and the story told. This movie is a different genre movie, not necessarily action, but not completely drama either, rather it is a movie of true passion of containing real life drama, real heart and mind, real flesh and blood taking you through it’s paces slow but steady.
I’m guessing that this movie won’t be a huge moneymaker, as I honestly I don’t see it finding a particularly large audience because fact – we’re much happier remaining ignorant to the horrors of war and the empty shells of humans that it results in. Needless to say, this film schooled me and was a true eye-opener as I left the theater with such a huge range of emotion, mostly rooted in anger and sadness and a sense of hopelessness. While I would love to think that the light it shines on its topic would result in some change, if not at least greater awareness, I doubt it will. We as Americans, have let our soldiers down. And this hasn’t just happened..its gone on for decades and something needs to be fixed in a big way. Again, sadly, not enough people will probably see this film to make a difference..but we all should. Bottom line though, it’s a great film and now it’s your turn to see it.

Grade: A
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, October 23,2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE” will be in theaters nationwide on Friday, October 27, 2017