Mudbound (2017) Poster

(2017)

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7/10
At times astonishingly powerful, but incredibly boring at others
themadmovieman17 November 2017
If there were ever a film that sums up the phrase 'mixed bag', then Mudbound is surely it. Ranging from emotionally devastating and harrowing drama to downright tedious periods of nothingness, this is one of the most inconsistent films you'll ever see, and although its highest points prove utterly enthralling and truly memorable, its lowest offer next to nothing in terms of riveting drama. Its performances are strong and its directing confident, but that doesn't escape the fact that this film is just a real mixed bag.

Let's start with the film's opening act, which is one of the most boring and frustrating hours I've spent watching a film. Starting off with a confusing and poorly executed opening scene, the film really fails to pick itself up over the course of its whole first hour, doing little more than to establish some of the main characters and the hardships of the muddy, isolated rural community, things that could have surely been done just as effectively in a good ten minutes.

For the duration of the whole first act, it's pretty difficult to tell what the end game of the movie actually is. For one, you've got the story of a young woman whose marriage allowed her to escape her dull family, and who also is deeply frustrated with the muddiness and poverty-stricken nature of her current life. Then there's some detailing of the horrific levels of racism in 1940s Mississippi, with the family's grandfather being the main example for some nasty remarks throughout. There's also a young black man who goes off to war, who we occasionally check in with during his battles in Europe, while we also see the brother of the central white family flying in the Air Force during the war.

As you can tell by that very bungled description, the film's first act is an absolute mess. There's very little way to tell what the main story is, and what you should really be focusing on for the biggest emotional intrigue, and that, coupled with the fact that it moves at a deathly slow pace, makes it a very frustrating and extremely tedious first hour.

However, things really do pick up come the second act. Upon seeing the two men return to Mississippi from the war, the film's central focus finally comes to the forefront, and we immediately get a very tense exchange between the racist grandfather and the African-American war veteran. That's undoubtedly one of the film's highest points, and sets up the atmosphere of deep racial tensions well, finally giving the film at least a continuing and consistent tension under the surface, something that was completely absent from its first act.

The second act then goes into looking at how different generations respond to the institutionalised racism, while also shedding light on how horrifically unjust some of the hardships suffered by so many hard-working African-Americans were at the time, which proves for an interesting, albeit never quite powerful watch. The film's middle portion is a great insight into the time period, and holds your attention throughout, but it never quite manages to hit you hard enough as a film telling such a story should do.

And then comes the film's final act, which is exceptional. For the final thirty minutes or so, the devastating reality of racism in the past is brought brutally into focus, and it makes for a deeply disturbing and uncomfortable but powerfully moving watch. With the film's tension at its height, it doesn't hold back in displaying some truly horrifying scenes, some of which are easily the most intense and powerful I have ever seen in a film dealing with the topic.

The final act is directed brilliantly, being frank and brutally realistic in its depiction of injustice, and moving along at a slow but tense pace to emphasise some truly horrible acts, all the while maintaining a strong dignity that allows the deeper, emotional side of the sequences to shine through too, all of which makes it simply astonishing to see.

It's fair to say then, given the huge range of comments I have for this film, ranging from total boredom to transfixing and hard-hitting emotion, that Mudbound is a very inconsistent mixed bag, however there is one element to it that works well from start to finish: the performances.

The wide range of characters in the first act does make its story somewhat muddled, but each of the actors really shines in bringing their own character to life. Carey Mulligan is very strong and convincing as a young mother frustrated with her life in poverty, Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell are both charismatic young men, meaning that their relationship really shines when it's on display, while Jonathan Banks is excellent as the terrifyingly racist old man, bringing a powerful tension into the film every time he walks into a room.

Overall, then, it's pretty clear that Mudbound isn't a resoundingly successful movie. At times an interesting insight into racism and injustice in the Deep South in the 40s, at others a tedious slog of randomly muddled drama and characters, and at others an astonishingly powerful, hard-hitting and truly memorable (dare I say it, even Oscar- worthy) drama, it's a very inconsistent and overall frustrating film. However, with its strong performances all the way through and exceptional drama at points, it is a memorable watch.
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9/10
"Mud" happens... but it can also create the most unexpected and inspiring bonds...
ElMaruecan8220 November 2017
Racism, war, violence, female solidarity … however relevant these subjects are, they seem rather exhausted on a cinematic level especially when the Awards season starts.

Indeed, on the simple basis of its trailer, one would believe that "Mudbound" is simply Netflix making its "Color Purple", "Mississippi Burning" or "12 Years a Slave". Maybe. But there is something fresh and original in Dee Rees' adaptation of Hillary Jordan's novel and it's a considerable achievement that owes a lot to the writing, the directing and the unusual structure and patient pace of the film. Sure it is a companion to all the movies I mentioned but it has a sort of haunting quality, something that sticks to your mind and dwarfs a rather good film like "The Help".

What is "Mudbound" about? That's not an easy question to answer, a few negative critics pointed out the film's lack of focus because it's a multi-character story and there's no lead or supporting roles at first stance, just as they criticized the overuse of voice-over. I didn't mind the voice-over much, the story is so complex and multi-layered that I'd rather have a voice-over explaining things and make it my 'privilege' to pay or not pay attention to it. The lack of focus now is just a matter of half-empty or half-full glass. But here's a way to present the film in simpler terms. "Mudbound" is about two families, the McAllans (white) and the Jacksons (black) living in two neighboring farms in the Mississippi of the 40's.

Laura (Carey Mulligan) married Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke), less moved by love than a desire to escape from her "old maid" condition, and marital life made her feel relevant and important. Henry isn't the romantic type but no bad man either, and I was glad the movie didn't take one path I expected. No, it's not about that kind of abuse. The McAllans are a steady couple and the Jacksons form a united clan whose patriarch Hap (Rob Morgan) is the descendant of former slaves who worked on that same land, Hap's dreams is to own it in the future although he's not fooled by the worth of any act of property in that racist state. The Jacksons might strike as too 'virtuous' and taking very solemn poses but once you get drawn by the atmosphere and the hostility they constantly face, you realize that "disunion" couldn't be an option. Hap and his wife Florence (Oscar- worthy Mary J. Blige) can't afford the luxury of not being at least "happy together".

But the film doesn't venture yet in these unsafe territories; the tone is only set with the presence of Henry's father: Pappy McAllan, a bigoted racist played by Jonathan Banks and whom we suspect will act like a ticking bomb. Henry buys a farm and Laura follows him, circumstances of life will force Florence to work for the McAllans, but as long as these two families mind their own business, so to speak, nothing seem ready to create conflicts. Except for what sets up the second act of the film, the second World War. The merit of "Mudbound" is to paint notable differences at first until you realize that the two families have a lot more in common. This 'common denominator' is the core of "Mudbound": the bond between the two veterans of each family: Henry's brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell). Here are two men who've seen hell in Europe, the things we expect and that are not overplayed, but they also lived the exhilaration of liberating countries and discovering a fraternity that transcends racial barriers.

"Mudbound" breaks a taboo seldom explored by the movies: the hypocritical treatment of Black soldiers. America takes pride for having liberated Europe but not to the point of questioning the internal "prisons", and this is the concealed wound the film tries to heal. Ronsel is the most complex of all the characters because he embraced his country's idealism and couldn't believe he wouldn't be rewarded for it. Jamie suffers from PTSD and finds in Ronsel the only man capable to understand him, "Mudbound" began like the stories of two women, Laura and Florence who were growing to understand each other, a sort of "Color Purple" of the 2010's, directed by a woman and with enough narrative to play like a feminist hymn, but no, this is a movie about two men, Ronsel and Jamie who grow to respect each other because they found in the mud of the battle-fight the universally human bond. You know what that movie truly reminded me of? "The Defiant Ones".

The image that immediately comes to mind from that Stanley Kramer's masterpiece of 1958 is Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as two ex-convicts chained together and escaping from the police. They hate each other, they still carry some bits of racism but the first display of solidarity happens when they're stuck in a deep pool of mud and must climb their way to the ground. Mud isn't just about dirt or about ground but can be a powerful metaphor of something uniting two men, a metaphor for an even dirtier stuff, when "natural enemies" discover they're equally worthless when put in the same 'mud'... unless they try to overcome it. "Mudbound" carries this image but it's less about 'mud' than it is about a color-blind "bound". The mud is either literal in the film or represented by the trauma of war… and also the suffering of women, while not the focus, "Mudbound" has a saying on that subject as well.

"Mudbound" is a proof that Netflix is becoming a major contender in the years to come, I don't know whether the film will meet with Oscar recognition but there should be some love to the haunting cinematography, the screenplay and Mary J. Blige should be a lock if Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis won for what I believe are lesser movies.
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8/10
One of the most beautiful final shots of the year
Alexander_Blanchett17 November 2017
A good and extremely well acted film. It is really the netflix film that could make the difference in terms of awards recognition. It is not your typical racism film as it tells another side of it. It is about two young men who would never be in any way friends if it wasn't for one thing they have in common. Both are war veterans and return home with a trauma. One is the son of a farm aid, the other is the brother of the owner of the farm. But it is not the only story this ensemble piece tells. The acting is the best reason to see the film. Rob Morgan was the MVP for me. It was a performance that worked way beneath his dialogue. A very deep and moving character and he managed it absolutely realistic. Jason Mitchell was great as well, especially towards the end. He has for sure the battiest role. Garrett Hedlund comes right after with a very controlled and intense turn. He surely is underrated for his acting, I also liked Mary J. Blige who had some great small moments, but after all the buzz I expected something more intense. Much of her performance works through her expressions which were great and real. Carey Mulligan and Jonathan Banks were great as well. Jason Clarke had his moments but was possibly the weakest of the bunch, but that was mostly because of his pale character, The film was extremely well shot, nicely directed and had a great screenplay. At the beginning it dragged a little bit but it is definitely worth to see and the ending is extremely intense, shocking and memorable. And the final scene has to be one of the most beautiful scenes of the year.
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10/10
This FIlm is engrossing, endearing, enveloping, and enthralling...
ArthurMausser15 September 2017
I WikiFLix Sneakpeaked this one. The acting is superb. The Cinematography is crisp, gritty and very believable. It is refreshing to have a movie entertain you WITHOUT over the top action & coffee shop contrived dialogue. The story line unfolds in a way that keeps you captivated with nostalgia and wonder of what will happen next. This will definitely be nominated for an Oscar. It could be the first Best Picture win for Netflix! Garrett Hedlund & Dee Rees will have a great chance of winning awards as well. I would like to go into further detail about the movie but will refrain from spoiling anything. All I can say is that this 20th Century drama captures the normal events in the Deep South to perfection. You are going to want to have food & drink near you couch to avoid having to hit the pause button...
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10/10
One of the Best of This Year
riorita-638793 November 2017
Wasn't going to go to this, but so very glad I did. Netflix has made a film worthy of the highest praise. If the book is better than this movie, this is a book for your library. The entire screening audience became engrossed in this movie, so quiet you could hear a pin drop on the carpet. The story unfolds necessarily slow and snares you. The narrations by different characters at different times, helps to pull the viewer in lightly forcing a personal touch to each story. The different perspectives of the storytellers is blatantly obvious while the movie spares little in realistic actions that make the viewer cringe at times, laugh at times and cry at times. it doesn't hold back The acting is top notch, even though I had only heard of a hand full of these players, one not even being an actor. The cinematography is up there, crisp and a great player in the mood of this movie. It had educational moments too, while not being preachy, it just shows and tells where we have been. It is also a movie for our times. People from the screening audience are still taking about this move 4 days later. An Oscar contender this should be.
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7/10
Yes, I'm going to be that guy. Sorry
paulmcuomo22 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen a lot of reviews of this movie, and all of them have been climbing over one another to say how much they love this film. It's pretty much been a case of this movie is the sole contender for bet picture this year. So, it is some shame that I come here and say that after watching it right now, it is a bit over-hyped. Obviously just my opinion.

Firstly, I want to mention the things I wasn't too keen on. The biggest one - BY FAR - is the fact that there are so many narrative voices, and the narration is so frequent and so invasive that it started to grate on my nerves a lot. It also doesn't help that the narration contains very anecdotal stories that don't serve too much of the plot, and is a case of "show don't tell" being ignored. There is a large portion of the film when the narration goes away, and I was happy, and then it came back and I was just annoyed all over again. The more constructive problem is that this constant infighting of narrative voice keeps the film from having a clear Protagonist, and so for the first hour and a bit before the focus moves to Jamie and Ronsel, you feel very pulled in all directions, and very disengaged sometimes.

Secondly, something that I will admit is both a blessing and a curse is that director Dee Rees has a very realistic style of directing in terms of the world's physics around it, so the light is all natural within scenes ala The Revenant so to speak. The drawback to a lot of this is that there are scenes shot at night that are so lowly lit that you can't see a f***ing thing that's going on. There's one scene this works fantastically, which is one of the best shots of the year, but aside from that, it's really hard. There's also some slight jarring from the film's score which is mostly absent and then comes in like a wrecking ball, and it's really abrupt and kind of kills the mood.

Thirdly, somewhat less importantly, is that the film has a very vague sense of time passing, to the point where I can only tell that 9 months has passed because someone has been born, but there's nothing else to indicate that in relation to everything else.

Lastly, whilst a lot of the cast do more than pull their weight, there are also some players that don't. Particularly, Carey Mulligan and Jason Clarke continue a trend with their work, which is that when they are not being passionate about the role, they kind of sleep it through. This is common with Mulligan, who will give performances like An Education, Suffragette, Shame and Drive, but then in a large amount of other roles, be bland as hell. Jason Clarke likewise, will be a charismatic confident leader in things like Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty and Everest, but then will do this when he is largely distant.

And now, this is when I point out that I do like this film, a lot. It is a long movie, but I did keep going with the elements I didn't like to see where they led, and they led to a fantastic final 45 minutes. Everything has led up to this point, and this culminates in one of the most uplifting final shots of a movie this year, and a haunting scene involving the KKK and a trio of amazing actors. This scene, led by Garrett Hedlund, Jonathan Banks and Jason Mitchell give it their all in a scene that reminded me a lot of the 12 Years a Slave soap scene. Mary J. Blige is also fantastic as well, and those 4 really hold the cast together, moreso with Jason Mitchell who is one of the most exciting new actors around, and who in this movie really makes a statement for Best Supporting Actor. So do Hedlund and Banks, but Mitchell is amazing.

So I don't regret watching this movie; just don't like it as much as others do, but I am very happy I saw it.
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10/10
Extraordinary!!!
barrylyman19 November 2017
I can't remember the last time I watched a film that was so touching. Especially set more than a half century ago, The acting is exceptionally great. The narrative is as smooth as molasses. But what really caught in my soul was that some of these racial prejudices still exist.

I was fortunate to have grown up in Canada in the 1950s. My Dad started his dental practice with a Japanese partner. Most of his patients were Native or Metis, who would, often as nought, pay him with chickens or a side of venison.

As I said, this story was relaetable to me, not because I share the centuries of oppression suffered by many many millions of African Americans, But because I am a Jew. And in the decade that came after WWII, was, practically, in a small town.

There is hate out there always THOSE WHO HATE ARE INSECURE.

In my opinion, this film is so important to where we were and where we've arrived, that it should have been given wider distribution beyond Netflix/s web. This story and its' storytellers should have been picked-up by a major studio.

Still, well done to all the tellers and actors - You have made my month! (maybe my year) I'd bet you'll never be the same for having the chance to perform these roles.

Bravo!
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A flat, self-important movie. I'm baffled by the critical bouquets.
Richard Burin9 October 2017
Ronsel quick-drying mud stain: it does exactly what it says on the tin – attempts to create a weighty, socially-conscious art movie from Hillary Jordan's plotty, slightly trashy but well-meaning page- turner.

Dee Rees's film spends more time in battle, fleshes out the Ronsel- Jamie relationship, and dwells on the minutiae of African-American life in the Deep South, but in a choppily uninvolving way, and at the expense of Laura's intriguing story of love, repression, sexual and racial guilt.

Critically, it never summons the book's sense of inexorable, fatalistic dread, nor knows what to do as it reaches its climax, which is first silly, then rushed and finally pointlessly and unconvincingly rose-tinted.

Mudbound has a few painterly images, good performances from Jason Mitchell and Carey Mulligan (who has one fantastic scene largely disconnected from the narrative and the worst pregnancy prop in decades) and an unvarnished understanding of the unglamorous, subservient pragmatism needed to survive as a black man in '40s Mississippi, but it isn't very compelling or convincing.

I say this as a middle-class white bloke, but... what promised to be a timely exploration of the African-American experience from an urgent and valuable contemporary voice is instead just a standard book adaptation: a mediocre melodrama that deals with big themes in a handsome but hackneyed way. Plus lots of Mary J. Blige staring out of windows.
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7/10
Worth sticking with
s-hicks6 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie has a slow start - in fact after the first hour we decided to take a break and come back to it. In the opening hour we meet most of the eventual main protagonists, but it takes some time and I found the character of Henry not quite believable - a man dressed in a smart suit, who marries an intelligent woman and lives in a nice house - who decides to try his hand at farming in Mississippi. Just seemed to be a strange thing to do, because the motivation was not clear. In this half we clearly see the main themes - the repugnant racism of the USA in that period, the limited chances for educated and intelligent women to do anything other than get married and breed and the grinding existence of being a farmer in Mississippi.

In the second half the pace picks up largely due to the interaction of the two returning war veterans - one black, one white. Both have had terrible wartime experiences and are suffering from them. The white man resorts to alcohol and the black man becomes withdrawn. Of course the racism still applies even to war veterans and when the local KKK take exception to our black war veterans he pays the price.

The film's resolution is optimistic, perhaps too much so but then much of life does not end in disaster.

No new themes explored here but overall a story well told - especially in the second hour.

We did struggle with some of the mumbled dialogue.
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7/10
hatred is not new
David Ferguson9 November 2017
Greetings again from the darkness. The Jim Crow South and WWII have each spawned many movies, and both play a crucial role in director Dee Rees' (BESSIE) adaptation (co-written with Virgil Williams) of Hillary Jordan's 2008 novel. It's the story of two families, the Jacksons and the McAllans, striving for daily survival in rural Mississippi during the 1940's.

The Jacksons are a black family tenant-farming on land owned by the white McAllans who transplanted from Memphis. This land is so remote and life so hard, that tractors are almost non-existent and mules are rare enough. There is such a bleakness to this existence that all seem oblivious to the always present mudhole leading to the front door of their shack. Elation comes in the form of a privacy wall constructed around the outdoor family shower, or the sweetness of a bar of chocolate. Soon after D-Day, Florence and Hap Jackson send their son Ronsel off to war. The same thing is happening across the 200 acre farm to Jamie McAllan, brother of Henry and son of Pappy.

A shifting of multiple narrators throughout allows us access to the perspectives of multiple characters. We get both black and white views on war and farming. Days in war bring injury, death and dirt … not so dissimilar to life on a Mississippi farm. When Ronsel and Jamie return from war, they are both suffering. Ronsel can't come to grips with how he was treated as a redeemer in Europe, but just another 'black man' being targeted by the KKK at home, while Jamie is shell-shocked into alcoholism and an inability to function in society. The parallels between the war experience of Ronsel and Jamie lead them to a friendship that ultimately can't be good for either.

Jason Clarke plays Henry and Carey Mulligan, his wife Laura. Jonathan Banks ("Breaking Bad", "Better Call Saul") is the ultimate nasty racist Pappy, while Garrett Hedlund is Jamie. Rob Morgan and Mary J Blige are Hap and Florence Jackson, and Jason Mitchell (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON) is Ronsel. While all perform well, it's Mitchell and Hedlund who are particular standouts, as is a radio reference of the great Lou Boudreau. Rachel Morrison's cinematography is terrific and captures both the hardscrabble life of Mississippi, but also the frantic and tragic abruptness of war (in just a couple of scenes).

Racism is always difficult to watch, and in that era, everyone had their place/plight in life. It was a structure built to ensure misery for most, and one guaranteed to collapse. The acting here is very strong and the film is well made. The story-telling is consistently disquieting and periodically unbearable. Still, we are all tired (or should be) of hatred. The somewhat hopeful ending caused an audible sigh of relief from an audience of viewers who had been angry and clinched for more than two hours. And though there is no joy in Mudville, we remain hopeful, even today.
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