This film is quite unlike other recent movies about the American Civil War. It’s not about heroes and victims. It’s the true-life story of poor whites and black slaves coming together to fight a common enemy: the Southern plantocracy.
The film opens with Confederate soldiers being mown down by Union troops. The pointless death of his terrified young press-ganged nephew spurs Newt Knighton (Matthew McConaughey) to desert the Southern army. So do many others, as the Confederate generals demand economic sacrifices to pursue the war they are losing.