Just Mercy movie review: In parts stolid, but solid nevertheless, Just Mercy is timely and important.
Just Mercy movie cast: Michael B Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson
Just Mercy movie director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Just Mercy movie rating: 3 stars
The story of a man sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit, lends itself powerfully to being told. And its power grows manifold when we know that the injustice is centuries old: a Black man in an Alabama town — where Harper Lee happened to be born, and where this film is set — is automatically guilty of the crime, any crime, even when he is innocent.
Just Mercy tells us the story of Walter McMillan (Foxx) who is sent to death row on zero evidence. His only fault is that he is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and becomes a godsend for a white cop looking for a convenient stooge. Newly-minted lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) turning up to fight his case is treated with resignation, rather than hope. Because once you have been incarcerated without mercy, what is left?
Stevenson is also Black, even if he went to Harvard, and speaks all fancy. As he goes about delving into the past, digging up witnesses, uncovering the truth, he is treated with barely-concealed contempt by the establishment, a reminder, if we needed any, of just how vicious and vexed the ‘race issue’ is.
The treatment stays conventional, but the story itself is worthy. At its best moments, inhabited by Foxx and Jordan, the film becomes becomes a larger palimpset of crime and punishment, showing how unjust the justice system is for those who have no voice and no representation. At its best moments, you cannot help but have your heart broken: Foxx doesn’t have to say anything; his prison-weathered face is map of pain and humiliation and indignation. You wish, though, that Brie Larson’s legal rep, who is helping Jordan unravel the ‘case’, had more to do. She adds something to the movie.
In parts stolid, but solid nevertheless, Just Mercy is timely and important.