“Mudbound” works best the further it moves away from feeling like another in a long-line of important, dialogue-heavy literary adaptations with excellent casts exploring rave in America, and more into being a strange, visually-focused, Malick-esque exercise in multiple perspective and tone and atmosphere above narrative.
When the film stops being a meandering movement through different character’s histories and ruminations on the shared land they live on, and abruptly locks into a set narrative structure it keeps for the rest of the film (following two veterans bonding despite racial tensions between their families, and a love triangle gone awry, unfortunately drifting away from the films’ centralised approach to its characters and subplots it exhibited earlier on) it’s disappointing, as it burns through its predictable plot in tonally slippery scenes that strike hard on-the-nose, where the film had earlier effectively danced around and really let characters dig into their unique stories without telegraphing their archetypes quite so hard.
The visuals are the most consistent thing here, but the cast is also uniformly strong, although some actors are much better served by the script than others. The literal sense of place is stronger here than some of the character’s sense of place in the cluttered film. Certainly a good film, but one where you can see a better film frustratingly poking out from time to time. Three and a half mules, and a helmet.