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Greetings again from the darkness. The Hatfields and McCoys family feud
has long been a favorite topic and inspiration for literary and film
projects. Lesser known, but ultimately more tragic and historically
vital, is the 1863 Shelton Laurel Massacre during the Civil War. The
novel from Ron Rash is the foundation of director David Burris' film
that explores the fallout of that incident more than 100 years later in
the very rural Appalachian hills of Madison County, North Carolina.
It doesn't take us long to get a line on Travis (Jeremy Irvine, War
Horse), a high school dropout with authority issues who hangs out with
his equally aimless friends, including Shane (Haley Joel Osment, The
Sixth Sense). We have seen many film depictions of hillbillies over the
years, so the grim atmosphere of unemployment, isolation, lack of
education, drugs and lack-of-hope aren't surprising, and the
undercurrent of the 1863 event is what should have set this one apart.
Interest picks up when teacher-turned-drug dealer Leonard (Noah Wyle)
takes Travis under his wing after Travis has an unfortunate run-in with
Carlton (Steve Earle), another local drug dealer. Travis moves in with
Leonard and his drug-addicted girlfriend (Minka Kelly), and takes a
real interest in the journals of Civil War soldiers that Leonard has
collected. These stories spark a curiosity within Travis, in particular
the saga of 13 year old David Shelton one of the victims of the
It's the fact that Travis is oblivious to the history of his family,
and how this event has so affected life in his hometown, that makes
this story difficult to buy into. In spite of the communication void
between Travis and his father, it's just not possible that the massacre
would not have been a frequent topic of discussion throughout the
years. Beyond that, this is little more than a typical small town
battle between drug dealers
albeit two very articulate drug dealers.
And yes, guns and turf do play a role here.
Jeremy Irvine, Noah Wyle and Steve Earle each make their characters
someone interesting to watch. On the other hand, the female characters
are mostly after-thoughts or plot devices. Travis' mother maintains a
forlorn look that registers her resignation to fate, while Minka Kelly
mostly gets knocked around (save for one excellent scene while alone
with Travis), and Adelaide Clemens provides the rare sparks of light
and optimism as Travis' love interest and then just as quickly
becomes a non-entity.
The fine acting and excellent camera work deserved a better story,
especially given the framework of history. There is a recurring
hillbilly philosophy in the movie that states "Time don't pass. It's
just layers. It's all still happening." That philosophy could have
better tied the current story into the past, which would have elevated
this film to a new level.
Tags for The World Made Straight Full Movie
, Jeremy Irvine
, Minka Kelly
, Noah Wyle
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