Just Mercy (Biography, Drama) [True Story] (2019)
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writers: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham, Bryan Stevenson (Based on the book by)
Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson
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Based on the autobiography of Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy tells the story of his first court cases defending those who cannot do so themselves. It mostly takes place in the southern state of Alabama during the 1980s, one of the places where slavery was most prevalent in the past.
The primary focus lies on Walter McMillan’s case, who is played by Jamie Foxx. A man who has been condemned to death row unjustly with an abundance of evidence formed against him. Bryan Stevenson played by Michael B. Jordan is intent on defending him as he believes it can only be true that McMillan had been wrongfully incarcerated for the murder of a young white woman.
Being quite the controversial topic at the moment, Just Mercy focuses on the racial prejudice still heavily influencing the American police force and the court system, even while this is a true story and one that should be heard it’s hopeful that some people understand the history behind it and what truly happened compared to what is happening now. Without getting into the political issue too much and staying as neutral on the topic as possible, it’s difficult to talk about this film without at least acknowledging the subject partially. There are some differently interpretable elements in the film, and it’s important that people view this as a lesson both in regards to racial prejudice and the case in history. Racism is still abundant throughout the world and definitely something that should not be taken lightly, but I can also see this film being used to cherry-pick thought’s beneficial to those inciting protests on either side of the coin, let what is shown be interpreted for what it is and not used to cherry-pick facts you deem useful in your current state of mind. Bryan Stevenson is genuinely a person we need, not only knowledgeable but also very grounded and realistic about the state of racism in America.
With the political topic out of the way, Jamie Foxx and Michael Harding appear on the screen first in a scene where Foxx’s character gets pulled over in his truck; honestly, it’s one of the best opening scenes I’ve seen in a long while as it sets-up the rest of the film amazingly well, straight from that point it’s abundantly clear where the film is going which is then reinforced even more by Michael B. Jordan first appearances. The casting for both Foxx and Jordan is truly ambitiously appealing not only are they both extremely well-rounded actors I couldn’t imagine two actors that would’ve fit better in these roles, but they also create an appeal to the storyline and faithful recreation of the source material in Stevenson’s life and as he wrote it in his autobiography.
At the beginning of the movie it shows Stevenson meeting an inmate which is used to jumpstart his role in the film, however, while we quickly see him transfer over to Alabama there is no mention (Or at least none that I noticed) of the Southern Center of Human Rights, where Stevenson started due to the ideas presented by them; instead, it’s as if Stevenson just started working non-profit out of his own incentive crating the Equal Justice Society from his own pocket which doesn’t appear to be the case if you read up on Stevenson’s career.
While engaging throughout there could’ve been a bit more focus on the other prisoners, since the story focuses on Stevenson fighting for the minorities and even though McMillan is the logical focus later on the other inmates just don’t seem to be used at all except for some scenes inside McMillan’s cell.
Although quite the slow-burn being as engaging as it can, it never bores and even those with a short attention span can surely work their way through watching Just Mercy as it moves toward a hopefully positive ending.
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Impactful and gripping!