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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Matthew McConaughey
Tye Sheridan
Jacob Lofland
Sam Shepard
Reese Witherspoon
Michael Shannon.
Directors
Jeff Nichols.
Screenwriters
Jeff Nichols.
Running Time
130 minutes

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Mud
Mud, glorious Mud


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Plot
Teenagers Ellis (Sheridan) and Neckbone (Lofland) find a fugitive known as Mud (McConaughey) hiding on an island in the Mississippi. They help him escape from the authorities, and a gang of bounty hunters, and reunite him with his girlfriend, Juniper (Witherspoon).


Review
Mud
With his third film, Jeff Nichols could be seen as taking up the baton dropped by David Gordon-Green when the latter decided to start making naff comedies. (Both are thirtysomethings from Little Rock, Arkansas, and share a cinematographer in Adam Stone.) And given the earthy, humid setting, Huck Finn-parallels and on-the-lam plot, Mud sidles closest to Gordon-Green’s Undertow, although Nichols’ film is assuredly superior.

Like Take Shelter, it twines mythic themes and brittle family drama against huge-horizoned American backdrops. And not only does it include a performance which further affirms the extraordinary on-screen rehabilitation of Matthew McConaughey — whose Mud exudes intense, sweat-sheened charisma — but also showcases a bedrock-solid supporting cast (including, in a small, against-type role, Nichols’ mad-eyed muse, Michael Shannon), plus excellent turns from its two unknown leads: Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, as Mississippi water-rats Ellis and Neckbone. Sheridan nails Ellis’ fierce, unrefined romanticism, while Lofland pulls off Neckbone’s cautious pubescent-jadedness like a seasoned pro.

Yet what truly elevates Mud is the sense there’s something so much bigger going on here. There are subtle, supernatural elements, such as the ‘impossible’ vision of a boat in a tree, or the way Mud will appear and disappear as if into thin (or, in this case, thick) air. It is even implied that he may be immortal (“Mud don’t have no daddy,” says Sam Shepard’s bullet-headed Tom. “No mommy either, far as I can tell”). His nemesis, meanwhile, the posse-leader out for Mud’s blood (Joe Don Baker), is “the Devil his’self”.

Of course, Nichols isn’t literally saying that Mud is a kind of river-spirit battling Satanic oppression. Nichols is showing us this world through the flashing eyes of Ellis, a child on the cusp of manhood who angrily refutes his own father’s assertion that “you can’t trust love”; in this sense, Mud also shares a spiritual kinship with Beasts Of The Southern Wild, although its magic is not nearly so overt. Most blessedly, Nichols never resorts to voiceover. There is no reflection here. This is Ellis in the living moment, keeping the drama immediate and as raw as his young passions.


Verdict
A bold, intelligent, 21st century take on Mark Twain — with added occult tendencies.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Mud
Empire Star Rating

RE: Another blinder from Nichols

L: UTB Brilliant film. Saw it this morning and can wholeheartedly say I loved every minute. I love films like these, slow burning dramas with an air of mystery, superb performances, beautiful cinematography and whilst it is a reasonably long movie, well paced. Matthew Mahogony keeps getting better. Cant be long before he snags an award or two. Brilliant performances from the two boys, they completely draw you in to their world (and its one you always wished you had... rivers, boat... More

Posted by milto at 18:52, 11 March 2014 | Report This Post


So slow

I liked it. I liked the themes. I liked the acting. But it moves so slowly!? Like a snail on quayludes. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 23:39, 20 January 2014 | Report This Post


One of the films of the year.

If you like Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, seek this out immediately. Mud is dramatic, romantic, mythic, thrilling and has the same raw, caring but unsentimental view of humanity that you'll find in Nichols' previous work (I liken Nichols to Kubrick in this way, but that may just be me). What's most refreshing is that it's a tale about love that I can relate to as a man (which is rarer than rocking horse poop. All men in movies seem to be gods these days and it's alienating as well as boring)... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Nicky C at 12:26, 11 December 2013 | Report This Post


Outstanding. Up there with stand by me. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jezy at 08:46, 10 August 2013 | Report This Post


Outstanding. Up there with stand by me. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jezy at 08:46, 10 August 2013 | Report This Post


Top Notch

This was superb. Really good acting from everyone, especially Sheridan as Ellis. Great dialogue that makes you laugh out loud. You are rooting for the boys and the charming McConaughey all the way through. Ultimately a story about unrequited love. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by filterHQ at 04:28, 02 August 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Another blinder from Nichols

Incredible. Best Original Screenplay. Best actor, but not Matt, for the kid. A definite watch. 9.7/10 W.Frey ... More

Posted by Will Frey at 20:18, 05 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Another blinder from Nichols

Aaah, I loved every second of this and just didn't want it to end. Stunning film-making and the cast (especially McConaughy and the lad who played Ellis) were superb. I even, for once... R*..totally bought the happy ending, 'cause it was just kind of deserved. ... More

Posted by horribleives at 04:01, 02 June 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Another blinder from Nichols

haha ach to their own, my friend ... More

Posted by UTB at 02:50, 23 May 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Another blinder from Nichols

L: UTB I haven't but I will check it out. I think I've been overly harsh on Take Shelter. I enjoyed it, but not the ending. h, Mud, still thinking about it 2 days later..] Oh dear afraid we disagree on Mud. Thought it was extremely boring, clitche ridden, empity and with avenge performances at best. Would have been better with more Witherspoon and Shannon. MM mumbled too much. ... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 21:06, 22 May 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Film of the year so far

I loved this film I thought the acting was superb and Matthew McConaughey is definitely having his second wave! If you get my drift. ... More

Posted by SarahBanks195 at 17:28, 20 May 2013 | Report This Post


Film of the year so far

Stunning film...A lovely mixture of early Spielberg filming Mark Twain on the set of Stand By Me with a wee dash of Night Of The Hunter. Absolutely essential viewing. Had a really old fashioned movie making feel where things are implied but not specifically spelled out and without the need for grandiose twists in the tale. Hell of a thing.... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ChudMonkey at 23:17, 19 May 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Another blinder from Nichols

I haven't but I will check it out. I think I've been overly harsh on Take Shelter. I enjoyed it, but not the ending. But yeah, Mud, still thinking about it 2 days later.. ... More

Posted by UTB at 10:11, 18 May 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Another blinder from Nichols

L: UTB Brilliant film. Saw it this morning and can wholeheartedly say I loved every minute. I love films like these, slow burning dramas with an air of mystery, superb performances, beautiful cinematography and whilst it is a reasonably long movie, well paced. Matthew Mahogony keeps getting better. Cant be long before he snags an award or two. Brilliant performances from the two boys, they completely draw you in to their world (and its one you always wished you had... rivers, boat... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 10:02, 18 May 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Another blinder from Nichols

Brilliant film. Saw it this morning and can wholeheartedly say I loved every minute. I love films like these, slow burning dramas with an air of mystery, superb performances, beautiful cinematography and whilst it is a reasonably long movie, well paced. Matthew Mahogony keeps getting better. Cant be long before he snags an award or two. Brilliant performances from the two boys, they completely draw you in to their world (and its one you always wished you had... rivers, boats, islands etc).... More

Posted by UTB at 15:26, 16 May 2013 | Report This Post


Another blinder from Nichols

I'm sorry but I'm completely sold on this film. Saw it at the weekend and loved it - up there amongst the best of this year (Zero Dark Thirty, The Place Beyond The Pines, Bernie...if that counts). Masterful filmmaking, and an example of a honest, straightforward plot with nothing left out. Pitch-perfect acting, particularly from Sheridan, McConaughey and Shepard. A finely tuned piece of cinema, with just the right balance of everything to keep it human. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FoxDhoj at 05:22, 13 May 2013 | Report This Post


What?

Empire, you're looking seriously deep into this film. 'Occult, Supernatural.....seriously???? The acting is decent enough, especially from the young dudes but it's nothing more than a watchable but very slow burner. Only nothing really happens. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The kUrGaN at 11:05, 12 May 2013 | Report This Post


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