The case of saving a man from walking the Green Mile is really touching.
Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx both win our attention in “Just Mercy,” the latest film from writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton, which tells the true story of an African-American lawyer, who must prove another man’s innocence. They respectively deliver such consistent and emotional performances, and you’re rooting for their real-life characters from beginning to end.
Possessing the qualities of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Green Mile,” the film is not something I recommend you see multiple times, because of the irritation of its past stereotyping, but it is something you should see, because of its true intentions and bravery. I know this part sounds confusing, but once you watch it, you’ll grasp my concept.
Set in 1987, the main lawyer is Bryan Stevenson (Jordan, also a producer), who arrives in Monroeville, Alabama-the home of “To Kill a Mocking Bird”-to run an organization to help poor families with legal cases-the Equal Justice Initiative. He gets constantly warned about the dangers about being a lawyer of “his kind” representing innocent criminals, and that’s why we get a scene of him being pulled over by two white cops for no apparent reason.
He’s planning to reopen the case of Walter McMillion (Foxx), A.K.A. Johnny D, a hard-working African-American family man, who gets wrongfully sentenced to death for the murder of a white teenage girl. Walter’s cynicism threatens to consume him, while Bryan has faith in his innocence. In fact, he’s on the case for the missing proof of that.
Another convict on death row is Herbert Richardson (Rob Morgan), who’s PTSD from the Vietnam War has gotten to his head, up to the point of setting off a bomb on a porch, which accidentally kills a girl. There’s a certain “Green Mile” vibe in this subplot that brings tears to my eyes, because this guy isn’t as evil as he thinks he is; he just made a fatal mistake. Even if this is a small role, Morgan delicately eases his emotions.
The intentions of “Just Mercy” delve into the beliefs and disbeliefs about whether or not the convict is innocent, and how some people stick to their guns, despite some set-backs. Destin Daniel Cretton and co-writer Andrew Lanham both adapt the story with courage and convictions, and they help introduce the real-life characters to people unfamiliar with them. You can easily tell Jordan and Foxx weren’t here for commercial endorsements, but rather to battle prejudice and cynicism.
The cast also features Tim Blake Nelson as a convict, who is forced to lie against Johnny D in order to save his skin; Darrell Britt-Gibson (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) as a witness, who gets wrongfully arrested for perjury; O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Anthony Ray Hinton, another realistic legitimate inmate; Rafe Spall as a rival Southern lawyer; and Brie Larson (a regular of Cretton’s films) as Bryan’s co-worker and good friend Eva, who sticks by him even when her family gets threatened by racists.
Again, I was stressed by its moments of racism and disbeliefs, but then again, this is real life. That’s what makes this film have genuine acting and courageous writing-the reality of it all. Justice isn’t always served, but there are those who are willing to right that wrong. “Just Mercy” represents that.
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