Just Mercy

 

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This powerful and moving indictment of racism in 1980s’ Alabama gets right to the heart of the matter.

 

Just Mercy

Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan

   

Based on a true story, this is the account by Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a young black lawyer fresh out of Harvard in 1987 and his wish to give help to the people who needed it most, the predominantly black prisoners on Death Row. He moves from the relative peace of Delaware to the warzone that was Alabama – the deeply racist state in the Deep South of the USA. There, against much local opposition, he sets up an Equal Justice Initiative. This is Monroeville, home of Harper Lee, the author famous for writing To Kill a Mockingbird, an abiding classic novel about class and racism in America.

The local dignitaries including the Sheriff and the District Attorney seem to be proud of their association with Lee but it doesn’t change their attitudes towards African-American citizens. However, despite not holding proper investigations into crimes that may or may not have involved a black citizen, they still recommend a visit to the local Mockingbird Museum! This is what Stevenson was up against. In order to close an investigation into the murder of a white teenage girl, the Alabama authorities accepted phoney evidence offered by a known criminal and subsequently incarcerated the wrong person, Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a black man who just happened to be in the vicinity at the time of the murder. With no real evidence McMillian is indicted merely because he is the kind of man who might have done the crime – i.e. because he is black.

With the aid of fellow activist Eva Ansley (Brie Larson) Stevenson works at getting McMillian and two other inmates off Death Row. The story is a harrowing one but co-writer and director Destin Daniel Cretton recounts it without any sensationalism. He evinces an excellent performance from Jordan as Stevenson, who visibly grows on screen from tyro law graduate into a fully-fledged attorney who offers hope to those who have given up. Equally impressive is Brie Larson as his comrade-in-arms, Eva Ansley, while Jamie Foxx gives a heartbreaking performance as the embittered and almost totally lost McMillian. Good work too comes from Rafe Spall as a particularly nasty local prosecutor, O’Shea Jackson Jr as McMillan’s fellow inmate, and Rob Morgan as a Vietnam War victim whose mental state should have put him in hospital, not jail.

 

MICHAEL DARVELL

 

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson, Rob Morgan, Rafe Spall, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Karan Kendrick, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Michael Harding, Lindsay Ayliffe, Rhoda Griffis, Claire Bronson.

 

Dir Destin Daniel Cretton, Pro Gil Netter, Asher Goldstein and Michael B. Jordan, Screenplay Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham, based on the book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, Ph Brett Pawlak, Pro Des Sharon Seymour, Ed Nat Sanders, Music Joel P. West, Costumes Francine Jamison-Tanchuck.

 

Endeavour Content/One Community/Participant Media/Macro Media/Gil Netter Productions/Outlier Society-Warner Bros.
136 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 17 January 2020. Cert. 12A.