Just Mercy

The Plot:

In 1989, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) Graduates from Harvard Law School ready to practice law. Instead of heading to a high-paying position with a powerful firm, he heads south to Alabama to help those wrongly accused.

One of his first cases is that of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man wrongly accused of murdering an 18-year-old woman. As Stevenson digs into the case he will meet both resistance and racism. Even his unshakeable determination may not be enough to find justice for his innocent client.

Kent’s Take:

“Just Mercy” is both an inspirational and unsettling true story of Bryan Stevenson and the poor, underrepresented communities in the south.

Writer/director Daniel Cretton along with Andrew Lanham create a riveting story that will anger audiences with the ridiculous and terminal nature of these cases.

Stevenson is quickly flagged to the inequitable culture that puts black citizens at the mercy of an unjust system that looks for scapegoats rather than justice.

The only evidence against McMillian is testimony from a convicted felon who wasn’t even at the scene of the crime.

Watching this film will make your blood boil with anger as innocent men are sentenced to death because of a corrupt sheriff and local lawyer; they want their community to sleep well at night thinking they have caught a killer – even though the real killer is still at large. This film beautifully outlines the case, its fallacies and falsehoods and how it affects the victims and their families.

Michael B. Jordan’s Stevenson is a skilled lawyer, ready to make a difference, but is surprised to discover that he is working in a corrupt system of racism, hatred and intimidation. His sidekick Eva Ansley (Brie Larson) also gives an honest performance bringing added depth to her character. However, Jamie Foxx’s Walter McMillian is a broken man destroyed by a system meant to protect him. Foxx gives a special performance, dominating every scene he is in. This film is absolutely worth a visit, especially for this performance.

“Just Mercy” is a sad, dismaying story of one man’s fight against a system twisted into a nightmare for innocent men and the determination of Bryan Stevenson to correct these injustices.

Lynn's Take:

Attorney Bryan Stevenson’s own account of the McMillian case, as recorded in the 2014 bestselling nonfiction book “Just Mercy: A Tale of Justice and Redemption,” is faithfully adapted on screen by writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton.

While the film is basically a legal procedural, it pushes buttons – frustration, anger and a clear indication that justice is sometimes only for those who can afford a good lawyer.

Cretton, along with screenwriter Andrew Lantham, depicts the harsh reality of dealing with black-and-white issues in the deep South (and beyond) as it methodically details the ‘cover your ass’ local good-old-boy police and legal system.

What elevates this film, however, is the acting. With the customary outstanding portrayals one expects from Michael B. Jordan and Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, we are presented with the ‘so-what’ obstacles that have led real-life hero Stevenson to overturn convictions of dozens of innocent people.

The McMillian case, detailed on “60 Minutes,” is so obvious in its railroading of an innocent man that the struggles seem more outrageous as the film weaves its matter-of-fact account with all the subtlety of a freight train collision.

The supporting cast also excels in bringing clearly defined characters to life – especially Rob Morgan and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Death Row inmates Herbert Richardson and Anthony Ray Hinton. Brie Larson, so good in Cretton’s film “Short Term 12,” conveys activist Eve Ansley’s plight as a Southern wife and mother.

Versatile character actor Tim Blake Nelson delivers one of his finest performances as a key witness, Ralph Myers, whose original testimony helped put McMillian in prison.

Stevenson’s work, through his Equal Justice Institute, shows how badly the criminal justice system is broken – more criminal than just – and the filmmakers have done a public service by bringing it to our attention.

“Just Mercy” won the Audience Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival in November. It’s easy to see why it strikes a chord with anyone who believes in truth and justice.