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A Legacy of Hope: Just Mercy Review

Poster for Just Mercy
From Just Mercy: Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
                                Released by Warner Bros. Pictures
Poster for Just Mercy From Just Mercy: Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton Released by Warner Bros. Pictures

The story of the lengths one man would go to challenge oppression. 

          Just Mercy tells the powerful story of lasting racism in the southern United States and how much a few people would do to keep others down. Based on the best selling novel by Bryan Stevenson, recounts the true story of Walter “Johnny Dee” McMillian, played by Jamie Foxx, who was put on death row for a crime he did not commit. Harvard lawyer Bryan Stevenson, played by Michael B. Jordan, takes it upon himself to prove to the courts that McMillian was wrongfully convicted. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, this movie brings a factual recounting of the events faced by McMillian, albeit somewhat slowly at times. 

Michael B. Jordan looks on through cell bars. From Just Mercy: Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton Released by Warner Bros. Pictures

Having Bryan Stevenson co-produce this movie proved valuable to the story being told. In other hands this premise could have been easily botched and could have ended up being another run-of-the-mill lawyer movie. From the first scene, the movie evokes powerful imagery, a scene that stuck out to me was Johnny Dee looking up to the sky through the pine trees. Not knowing how quickly something so simple can be taken away. Johnny Dee refers back to this image of freedom to calm himself and his friends on death row. The sheriff of Monroeville then arrests Walter for the murder of eighteen year old white girl Walter had never met. McMillian is convicted on weak testimonial evidence and immediately put on death row. Then comes in Bryan Stevenson, a new lawyer from Delaware who moves to Montgomery to help death row inmates get legal help. He takes a particular interest in McMillian and vows to get him out. Stevenson is joined by Eva Ansley, played by Brie Larson, in starting up the Equal Justice Initiative, but not without opposition from locals. Mainly by the District Attorney Tommy Chapman, played by Rafe Spall, and Sheriff Tate, played by Michael Harding. I will refrain from sharing other plot points after this to keep the story complete on your viewing. 

Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan) comforts Walter McMillian (played by Jamie Foxx). From Just Mercy: Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton Released by Warner Bros. Pictures

          This movie has a lot of positives going for it, mainly the performances all around. The standouts however are Foxx and Jordan, who just by themselves elevate this film beyond just another lawyer story. Although, an overlooked performance is by Rob Morgan who plays another death row inmate with post traumatic stress from his time in Vietnam. This movie does a good job of using emotions to its advantage, there are a handful of scenes throughout the movie that will evoke strong emotions from the viewers. The whole emotional spectrum is addressed in this movie, and it does a good job of it. However, no movie is perfect and Just Mercy has its own problems. With movies based off real events, there is usually a recurring problem with pacing problems, life isn’t always full throttle, and Just Mercy isn’t immune. It has its moments that feel slow or bloated, but that comes with stories where people need to be informed about the details. Aside from the pacing, there are a few scenes and one mini subplot that feels slightly unnecessary but ultimately don't hurt the movie by being included. 

          Overall, Just Mercy is a faithful telling of the injustice faced by Walter McMillian and many other black people by the hands of the justice system. The real people of this story are wonderfully portrayed and given the recognition they deserve. It does have some pacing problems and a mix of excess fat that could be trimmed, but neither hurt the story being told. Just Mercy is a moving true story that will leave you thinking for days afterward.

Favorite Quote- “It's never too late for justice”

+Oscar Worthy performances

+Factual retelling

+Lasting significance

-Pacing issues

-Unnecessary subplot

My Final Score: B

iMDb: 6.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%

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