by Paislee House, Film Critic
Best of Netflix- November
Another Netflix original takes the title of “Best of Netflix” this month! As Netflix grows, including a price hike coming soon, its original content continues to expand and get stronger. Though there are some precarious consequences of a Netflix takeover, it’s hard to be mad at a company that allows movies like “Mudbound” to be made.
“Mudbound” is a Southern gothic, American epic directed and co-written by Dee Rees, whose debut “Pariah” is a similarly strong albeit smaller film. Rees’ second film follows the story of two families who live on the same plot of land in rural Mississippi in the 1940s. The McAllan family owns the land and the Jacksons are sharecroppers with hopes of someday owning their own plot. Each family has their own struggles, and Rees manages to present the story in ways that allow for deep thought on how race affects struggle. The decision to tell the story in separate narratives also gives voice to more than one primary character and provides a much deeper understanding of what we see on screen.
Speaking of what we see on screen, “Mudbound” is staggeringly beautiful. The landscape of the Mississippi Delta coupled with Rees’ directing style and Rachel Morrison’s cinematography give the film an incredible look. With its epic style, “Mudbound” feels similar to early Terrence Malick – specifically his masterpiece “Days of Heaven.” Parts of Rees’ film feels almost dreamlike with beautiful images coupled with soft character voiceovers that help the story unfold.
Though the film is just as much about the hardships of living and working in rural Mississippi, it is also about the difficulty of adjusting to civilian life after war. Both families deal with the experience of sending a loved one off to war, and both soldiers bond over their attempt to reintegrate themselves into everyday life.
Garrett Hedlund plays Jamie McAllan, a former bomber pilot who has an alcohol problem, and Jason Mitchell plays Ronsel Jackson,, a tank commander who finds returning to his racist hometown too much to bear. Ronsel and Jamie’s friendship is the most hopeful element of the film, and it culminates in an unsettling and unforgiving action that feels like Rees holding a mirror up to her American audience.
Honorable Mentions: “Killing Ground,” “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond- Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton” and “Men in Black”