The Oscar winner plays Newton Knight, a disillusioned Confederate soldier in the American Civil War who returns home and rebels against his former comrades, creating a “Free State”. Coming in at a two hours and 20 minutes, Hunger Games director Gary Ross takes his time with this story, which somehow still feels under-developed. The endless speeches and bloody skirmishes become a slog, and Ross leans too heavily on his star, who, while as captivating as ever, can’t rescue a film that never really gets started.
Wandering from one subplot to another, it’s hard to tell exactly what the film is trying to say. On occasion we’re jolted awkwardly 85 years on from the Civil War to the story of one of Knight’s descendants, an awkward conceit that adds nothing to the overall narrative. There are countless ways such an interesting story could have gone – the Robin Hood parallels practically scream at you – but Ross’ indecisiveness results in a film that goes nowhere, and takes a long time to get there.