Many films about the historical practice of racism have hit the silver screens but what makes Just Mercy stand out by itself is its dedication to getting the stories of its characters historically accurate and evoking raw emotion from the viewers.
Just Mercy stars Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson and Jamie Foxx as McMillian, and the performances given by each are stellar. They both deliver emotional, passionate performances and play beautifully off of one another. They are rounded out by an equally fantastic supporting cast that includes Brie Larson, O’Shea Jackson Jr, and Rob Morgan.
Just Mercy tells the true story of Bryan Stevenson, a young Harvard graduate student who wanted to help the less fortunate. Despite the many opportunities he had up north, he decided to go down to Alabama to provide legal defense for death row inmates that were wrongly convicted and in need of new trials.
He met Walter “Johnny D” McMillian, who had been on death row for six years after being wrongly convicted of killing a young white woman in 1987. After he reviewed McMillian’s trial, Steveson signed on as his lawyer to try to get him off death row. Despite ample evidence that showcased McMillian’s innocence, Stevenson quickly realized that obtaining justice for him was easier said than done.
Never for a moment in the film is the viewer given any leverage to feel any kind of indifference or nonchalance. Throughout every part of the movie, there was always something that commanded the audience’s attention. Going in with basic knowledge about racism and its practice in legal situations, I expected to be emotional. However, by the end of Just Mercy, it felt as though I had been through a whirlwind of all kinds of emotions. I felt anger that a man had to endure so much just because of the color of his skin.
I also felt disgust at the fact the legal system was willing to fight tooth and nail to keep him there without hearing anyone out. But most of all I had to say I left feeling inspired, inspired to keep moving and never be afraid to fight or go the distance, very much like Stevenson never gave up on his mission to help McMillian. This movie proves that struggles and setbacks can only give way to strength and resilience.
Overall, Just Mercy is painful yet inspirational and fresh. It is a film that everyone can all learn from, especially since its plot describes a problem that is still prevalent in our country today. The movie provides a powerful glimpse into a little known true story about resolve and determination to fight against racism in the legal system. It is a well paced, emotionally charged film from beginning to end that will keep the viewer hooked the entire time.
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