Just Mercy Movie Review: This Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx film will make you feel the pain but the pleasure as well when justice is finally served. It’s the real-life story that drives this cinematic experience.
Movie Name: Just Mercy
Just Mercy Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson
Just Mercy Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Just Mercy Stars: 4/5
‘Based on a true story,’ movies have one goal; make you revisit the past. Such projects dig deep into the journey that led to the end result. Sometimes they deliver in spades and take us back to that exact moment in time when history was being made. Just Mercy was one such film with Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan in the front-lines with the task to ‘justly’ tell the remarkable stories of Bryan Stevenson and Walter McMillian. Did they succeed?
Just Mercy is based on Harvard lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s (Michael B. Jordan) memoir of the same name and tells us the story of Walter McMillian aka Johnny D (Jamie Foxx) who is 1986 was wrongly convicted of the murder of a teenage girl in Alabama. Fresh off of Harvard with the burst of energy to do good for people, who have been resisted by the highest of authorities owing to their race, Bryan Stevenson takes up the cases of several death row inmates including Walter.
The reason why Just Mercy works in bringing the message of racial injustice, that is still prevalent on our planet, is because of the subtlety used in showcasing the atrocities faced by a black man. From a white officer asking Bryan to strip completely in order to be checked before his first meeting with Walter to Walter’s family not getting permission to enter the court until all the whites have been seated; every moment in time with each these characters shows us how race is still a primary angle of judging a characters. Even if they are law-abiding learned citizens. Don’t get me wrong! Just Mercy hits you hard when it needs to, but it’s not preachy about it.
Jamie Foxx is the man of the hour as he delivers a phenomenally earnest performance as Walter. It’s the constant twitching of the eyes to the balance between hope and hopelessness that carries forward the emotional undertones of the drama. On the other hand, Michael B. Jordan sinks deep into the complexities of playing Bryan and comes out strong. His onscreen charisma is hard to compete with but Michael doesn’t let his charming personality take away from telling the story of an extraordinary man. It’s also the fragmented scenes between Jamie and Michael that bring it right home. As limited as Brie Larson’s screen time as
Equal Justice Initiative’s Director of Operations Eva Ansley was in the film, the actress manages to make the impact necessary.
A special mention has to be given to the supporting players, especially Tim Blake Nelson who plays Ralph Myers, the only witness who gave a false testament against Walter. Again, limited screen time but Tim captured every sequence he was in with such brutal magnetism, that you couldn’t help but be gutted at the predicament he was in. Rob Morgan, O’Shea Jackson Sr. and Rafe Spall add their own ingredients to take us on a sought after the emotional ride.
As brilliant as the acting performances were, due credits to the captain of the ship, Destin Daniel Cretton, who doesn’t take the old brick home and dramatically fictionalize a real-life story. Without beating around the bush, Destin and Andrew Latham adapt a screenplay that stays true to the material and at the same time, doesn’t tarnish the emotional quality. The finest example of this in Just Mercy is when Herbert Richardson is tied to the electric chair awaiting his death while the other inmates start banging on their close prison doors supporting him. An emotional gut-stirring sequence that was so beautifully shot and looked after, that the silence that follows is what makes this film a must-watch. It hits you where it has to but also gives you a breather with some funny lines, here and there. This time, it’s the story that rides the entire cinematic experience. You won’t remember the background score or the Alabama greenery or the editing cuts, it’s the story and the characters you leave the theatre with.
At the end of the day, Just Mercy makes you feel the pain but you also feel the pleasure when justice is finally served. And damn, did it set me free as well!