This is the story of Confederate Army deserter Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey, and the influence he had during the American Civil War and the freeing of slaves in the Deep American South during the 1870s. It is a slow-moving and thorough investigation of the role he played during the war. But above all it is about his relationship with a slave girl, beautifully underplayed by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, whom you might remember from Belle in 2013, and its consequences.
The film also shows how Knight leads a rebellion, consisting of farmers and slaves, against racist plantation owners and how he called out a Free State of Jones and the intense resistance from the people around him, including of course the Ku Klux Clan.
Although the film has good intentions, and this is a piece of history that needs to be shared with filmgoers, Gary Ross takes far too long to tell his story. It becomes plodding; fatigue and even exhaustion set in, especially after the bloody and disturbing, effective opening sequences. Recommended only for art house cinema audiences.