‘Just Mercy’ is based on a memoir from the heroic efforts of Bryan Stevenson; a man who fights to get the wrongfully convicted off death row. The film is one that will no doubt have you burning with a semblance of rage and thanks to steady direction and incredible performances, the sense of incredulity hits hard.
Pulpwood worker Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) is arrested for the murder of a local eighteen year old female but he protests his innocence. A few years later attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) starts up a centre for protecting justice, where he takes on Walter’s case to hopefully remove him from Alabama’s death row.
You might be apprehensive knowing that ‘The Glass Castle’ director is behind this feature but gladly Destin Daniel Cretton more than makes up for his past cinematic misstep and focuses on a film where you cannot help but empathise with the right characters. The notion of the death row environment is such a hot topic of conversation and the film makes sure to present its argument; in the weight of how frustrating it is that out of every ten convictions only one innocent figure is prevented from execution, by showcasing the head-shaking absurdity of how unjust Walter’s imprisonment and trial are.
What this dramatic film does is topple into you like the weight of the tree felled by Walter in the opening scene. The clearing he looks up into is a wishful memory and now there’s an urgent sense of power and disbelief rippling through the story; one which is mightily stirring and will shake you to your core with anger at the way things worked and sadly, still do work. The U.S. justice system is outrageously bent against the non-white community and Walter’s case boils and erupts with emotion whilst we follow the tireless work of Bryan.
Bigotry and intolerance are a big factor in providing a trembling sense of weighty emotional responses but it’s the hopelessness that truly gets you and thanks to a prime performance from Michael B. Jordan, the audience will be hard-pressed not to gain a similar feeling of despair. You may very well be lumbered with no soul if you aren’t moved by this film and I was shaken to tears on multiple occasions, thanks to the cast and director effortlessly telling a story about a place ironically proud of their much celebrated ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ heritage although being concretely set on a quick and racist way out of lawful procedure.
Granted some of this film can wallop with sentiment in an almost melodramatic manner, the structure of the narrative being one you will grasp and expect from the outset but aside from this there is no doubt that the strength of how drastically wrong an entire system can be, and the restorative hope of Bryan’s ethics will propel a profound awareness into the very heart of you.
Written by Troy Balmayer
STAR RATING –★★★★
Question: What is your favourite Michael B. Jordan film?
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