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First Look: Garrett Hedlund & Jason Mitchell in Sundance Smash ‘Mudbound’

Each year, the Sundance Film Festival premieres hidden gems that go on to make a big splash down the road. 2016 was The Birth of a Nation, the year before that was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and the year before that was Whiplash. You get what I’m trying to say here. 2017’s festival wrapped itself up today and while there wasn’t an enormous amount of talk coming out of Park City, Utah, there was definitely a few smash hits we’ll be talking about months down the line, with the biggest possibly being Mudbound.

Directed by Dee Rees, the period piece drama is set in the time of World War II and stars a remarkable cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, and Mary J. Blige. Here’s a detailed summary of what the film’s about:

Set in the Mississippi Delta during and immediately following World War II, the film follows two families: the white McAllans, who own a large farm, and the black Jacksons, who are sharecroppers on the McAllans’ land. When both Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) return from serving in the war, they become friends, bonding over their shared experience. However, while the two men saw the world change enormously when they fought for their country, they come home to find that rural Mississippi stayed very much the same, and neither their families nor their community looks kindly on their friendship.

The film is based on the 2008 novel from Hillary Jordan and just from that description, it sounds like a film that should not be missed. Not to mention that the film premiered to a standing ovation on the first Saturday of the festival to a “rapturous crowd,” as EW puts it. Rees, who’s making her first directorial outing since 2011, had this to say on why this specific story:

“I just wanted to juxtapose the battle at home versus the battle abroad, with the battle at home sometimes being even bloodier than the battle abroad.”

“For me, the mud was a metaphor for the suck that we’re all in.” “The mud, and the suck, and the elements being kind of indifferent to our suffering.”

“This film is about a search for citizenship, it’s about the impossibility of going home.”

Jason Mitchell, who most will recognize from his time as Eazy-E in F. Gary Gray’s N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton, expressed his trie excitement when this film and character landed in his hands:

“I always wanted to do a movie like this, but I never wanted to do a movie with a character that put his head down and ran and was afraid,” Mitchell said. “I feel like there’s so much more than that, that you have so much more to stand for as a black man. Even if it means your life. So when I saw the character, I was like, ‘Yo. Yo.'”

This is the first I’ve heard of Mudbound, which is the case with most festival films, and it has definitely made a strong first impression. The cast is phenomenal, with early word of mouth saying names like Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan step up in a big way, but most of all, it holds a story that I believe ins’t touched on nearly as much as it should be. The years after WWII were some of the hardest our Country has ever seen, and while most of it is documented as pure cruelty, not all of it was, and Mudbound sounds like it’ll capture both sides of the story. And in a fascinating way.

Mudbound is currently waiting to be nabbed by a distributor, which hopefully happens soon as I’m sure all of us want to see this one before the year ends. What do you think? How does Dee Ress’ new film sound and look to you? Are you interested because of the cast or the subject matter? Comment below!

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