Just Mercy Reviewed by Wal Reid
Just Mercy shadows world-renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson as he recounts his experiences and details the case of a condemned death row prisoner whom he fought to free.
Usually Legal biopics bore the bat faeces out of me. The usual drawn out down-the-barrel style of courtroom drama usually ends in misery for the protagonist, so never any real surprises there. However, director Destin Daniel Cretton’s powerful drama, Just Mercy throws that idea into disarray.
An admirable line up of Hollywood stars here. Creed poster boy Michael B. Jordan, the versatile and talented Jamie Foxx, the sublime British actor Rafe Spall, and of late, Marvel’s Brie Larson. When it’s this good a cast it’s always hard to tell if this is going to be a winning formula or not. Rest assured, there are some great performances juxtaposed against the harrowing narrative of Alabama man African-American Walter “Johnny D” McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who in real life was convicted of the 1986 murder of Ronda Morrison.
Just Mercy recounts the true story of McMillian, who, with the help of young defence attorney Bryan Stevenson (Jordan), appeals his murder conviction. The film is based on the memoir of the same name, written by Stevenson. Cretton’s use of emotive in-your-face cinematography on people perfectly captures the emotion of his actors, to the point the viewer is sucked into his somber auteurist vortex.
Actor of the moment Brie Larson, who has worked on Cretton’s previous outings, The Glass Castle & Short Term 2, displays a certain empathy in her role as equal rights activist Eva Ansley. Her eighties wardrobe hangs off her character to a tee, as she teams up with screen hubby Doug Ansley (Dominic Bogart) to find the Equal Justice Initiative with Stevenson. Her support role in the film priceless.
Just Mercy is a period commentary on the American economic and penal justice system, rather than a drama for drama sake. A system riddled with racial prejudice & social injustice, it’s difficult to believe this was Trumps’ America a couple of decades ago. It’s deeply seeded shame brought to light in these modern times absolutely defies belief, but makes for great viewing fodder.
I enjoyed this film. There’s nothing to dislike except maybe Larson’s benign pensive look throughout the movie, other than that, I had my eyeballs glued fixedly on the screen. Just Mercy is an emotive and powerful drama that is as every bit redemptive and its subject matter is morally unjust. Actor Tim Blake Nelson of O Brother, Where Art Thou? in my opinion, turns in the best performance of the film, as inmate snitch Ralph Myers. Even through his characters physical speech impediment, he shines radiantly.
Be prepared to have your ideals shaken to the core and your tear glands charged..er... I mean challenged. It’s a story that was needed to be told on the big screen, and deservedly so.
DVD Releases: 24th June 2020
Rating: M – Contains adult themes
Duration: 137 minutes
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Jamie Foxx
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton (The Glass Castle)