Civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson has all the makings of a real-life superhero. Standing up to villains much bigger and stronger, fighting for the powerless, saving lives, and yet, Just Mercy has little to do with singing his praises.
Based on his memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption the true intention of the film is to inspire real change and this is one of the few flicks with the power to do just that.
Just Mercy evokes intense feelings of anger, shock, shame, and hope and it’s the most important film you’ll see all year.
The impeccably casted film doesn’t rely on traditional tactics to provoke emotion but the facts of the story and the strength of the performances should light a fire inside of anyone with a pulse.
Michael B. Jordan employs just the right amount of restraint in his portrayal of the man who founded the Equal Justice Initiative in 1989. Jamie Foxx is incredible as Walter McMillian, a wrongfully convicted death row inmate who has lost all hope after being framed for a murder he had nothing to do with.
Despite the fact that McMillan was at home surrounded by friends and neighbors at the time the 18-year-old white woman was gunned down, Sheriff Tom Tate (Michael Harding) would stop at nothing to see him convicted. That includes manipulating a poor, white criminal (Tim Blake Nelson) into providing false testimony, sealing McMillian’s fate on death row.
Just Mercy would be a powerful tale even if it was fiction, but the fact that the despicable details of the case are true and relatively recent is what makes it so impactful and urgent. Seeing the way Stevenson and Eva Ansley (Brie Larson) committed to their quest for justice against insurmountable odds is a testament to the fact that we are not helpless. We do not have to simply accept the way things are for Black folks in America but have real chances at change.
Since he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson has saved 135 men from death row and continues his fight against the bias in the criminal justice system.
The film also manages to humanize an easily forgotten category of people who have been written off as criminals deserving of death. The searing performances from Foxx, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Rob Morgan, as death row inmates make it nearly impossible not to question the whole notion of capital punishment.
No matter what your feelings on these issues were before seeing the film, it’s hard to imagine you could leave it unchanged.
Just Mercy should remind us that the system is stacked against us so severely that it would be easy to lose all hope but it should also remind us that there is indeed power in passion and perseverance.
Just Mercy is in theaters now.