Curtains Up on Mudbound

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Mudbound is one of the best films of 2017. Now streaming on Netflix, it should be on everyone’s must watch list.

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Director Dee Rees has crafted a meticulous and poignant film about two interconnected families, one black, one white, living in rural Mississippi during the 1940’s. Based on Hilary Jordan’s book, Mudbound is an honest slice of life depicting the realities of of farmers, sharecroppers and war veterans living in a segregated part of the state.

The film is told from the point of view of many of its characters. It is a remarkable ensemble that combines great character actors like Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks and Rob Morgan, up and coming big screen talent like Mary J. Blige and Jason Mitchell and established professionals such as Carey Mulligan and Garret Hedlund. All are excellent, with much praise on Blige and Mitchell, who should both be up for awards this year. They are that good.

A film like this, at first, seems like it has been done before. But the manner in which it is told and the avenues it takes surprised me. Rees lingers on shots that many would cut due to time. She allows for extensive voice over narration to explain thoughts and in the end, where other filmmakers would have gone for the obvious, she ends it on a heartfelt note of hope.

On a technical level, the film is a wonder. This isn’t MGM studio gloss, this is sun, rain, dust and mud. This is as harsh a environment as one could capture properly on film. The period detail is immaculate and cinematographer Rachel Morrison places us right in the thick of things, making us feel the characters sweat, tears and blood.

I can’t praise this film enough and it is as close to perfection as you can get. Among all the superhero films and cartoons out there, it’s wonderful to see that original voices are able to tell their stories.

 

 

 

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