Review: Just Mercy
Just Right!"Just Mercy" is an investment in raw emotion and a victory for the wrongfully accused against terrible injustice. It's not to be said that every man (or black man) on death row is blameless, but Destin Daniel Cretton's film takes a solid swipe not at the death penalty itself but at the clear and present breach of a system that has become draconian. More than any film before it, "Just Mercy" makes no apology in terms of forcing to the surface, the brazenly racist and corrupt law enforcement agencies and courts that continually operate in the Deep South. These powerful forces use the threat and fear of the electric chair or lethal injection as a convenient solution to keep Black America under control. It is a sad truth that this great nation doesn't want the world to see.
Based on young civil rights attorney, Bryan Stevenson's book of the same name, Cretton and his writers have achieved a poignant result considering the confronting nature of the experiences eye-witnessed and shared by the author. By no means does the film paint the condemned characters as angels (in fact it subtly points out their imperfections), but the Director has respectfully dissected Stevenson's sensitive material then packages it into a moving courtroom drama.
Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) has just been appointed to the bar when he courageously moves away from his comfort zone in suburban Delaware and sets up shop, so to speak, in the heart of "To Kill a Mockingbird" country; the Deep South. His work inevitably takes him to the notorious death row and Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a condemned man who has been wrongfully convicted of murdering a young white woman in a laundromat. With a stack of evidence proving his incarceration was a mistake at the very least, it becomes apparent that Walter is an innocent man. But Stevenson's investigation is sabotaged at every turn and with it the sobering reality of who he is and where he is; a black man in real America. With the help of a very brave legal assistant, Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), the young lawyer must overcome extreme bigotry and hatred to do what is right and just.
Jordan and Foxx are superb in their leading roles. They both have no struggle with motivation and are fully engrossed with the time afforded to them in front of the camera. Each one feeding off the other when a scene allows them to share the screen. The longer their on-screen presence, the greater chemistry they radiate through to a thoroughly engaged audience. Jamie Foxx plays out his finest performance since his Oscar win for "Ray", and Michael B. Jordan is quickly earning a reputation as a strong character actor with another staunchly professional approach to his vocation. Jordan's diversity has undoubtedly helped him to compassionately imitate a civil rights treasure and this was his film to own. Without these two outstanding actors, "Just Mercy" would not have had nearly the emotional punch as it does.
A heartbreaker in its worst moments and a singing choir of joy at the climax, "Just Mercy" will send you on a rollercoaster of human emotion. 9/10.