Director: Dee Rees
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Jonathan Banks, Rob Morgan, Garrett Hedlund
4.5 (Out of 5) Globes
Plot: Laura McAllan (Carey Mulligan) and Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) relocate to the Mississippi Delta with their two young daughters and his racist father (Jonathan Banks), where they struggle to adapt to the environment. The Jackson family live on the farm as sharecroppers, too, but they also have to deal with racial prejudice in the Jim Crow South of the 1940s. Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) then return to the farm after World War II, where they form a bond that helps them through their PTSD but threatens both of their safety.
Review: You can immediately tell that “Mudbound” is an adaptation of a novel. That’s unsurprising considering it is just that, as writer and director Dee Rees brought Hillary Jordan’s 2008 debut book to life with the help of Virgil Williams. At first that’s a little jarring, especially when you’re given several voiceovers to contend with that introduce each of the main characters. This plodding start is so clunky it has more in common with the likes of “Suicide Squad” and “Justice League” than its awards season rivals.
But while “Mudbound’s” opening might be a little too familiar and lack panache it sets the table for what proves to be a decadent feast of cinematic brilliance. Under the guidance of Rees’ precise eye each of the actors are able to bring their characters to life in a thoughtful but under-stated manner, while the film itself festers into a rousing concoction.
Unlike many other adaptations, “Mudbound” uses the detail, mood, and even the predictability of the novel to its advantage. Dee Rees finds so much beauty and poignancy in the journey, as well as effectively and reflecting the brutal reality of the period, that even when you arrive at the foreseen conclusion she still finds ways to shock and impact you.
Come the end of the film “Mudbound’s” awards season credentials are screaming in your ears. Considering the heated climate that it is being released into those screams will hopefully not just get louder, but will actually be heard by those that matter.