There are real stories of real injustices in our criminal law system that are still happening today; just turn on the news, it’s right there in front of your face. Racial prejudice should not be an issue in 2020 the same as it should not be an issue in 1986. The truth is, it is an issue and that is a hard pill to swallow. Inequality is a cancer in today’s society and those who hold all the power should not be held to a different standard than those who feel they don’t have a voice. Those who feel they are profiled for the color of their skin, their beliefs, their culture, their creed, their sexual orientation have every right to be equal and fight for their rights and it takes courage for those to speak out against the systemic bias and bigotry that has held them back for centuries. I understand that I could never understand what it is genuinely like to be in that kind of situation. In order for there to be real change, we as a collective group of human beings need to stand together and demand the equal rights for all people. That can only be done by more than the words that we type, say, post and tweet, it has to be done by action. Petitioning, protesting peacefully and donating to organizations who can help change are only a few of the ways we as humans can change the way we treat each other.
Bryan Stevenson is a fresh faced Harvard graduate who wants to do nothing but help those who have everything against them. He moves to Alabama where he meets Eva who wants to aid him with his mission of helping people who cannot help themselves. Bryan sees the systemic racism the moment he arrives at the correctional facility and the officer makes him strip in order to see and talk with clients. Bryan meets Walter McMillion for the first time where Bryan wants to help Walter win his case because he honestly believes Walter is innocent. Walter is skeptical at first and rightly so, lawyers have come and gone. Bryan’s next stop is to convince prosecutor Tommy Chapman to revisit Walters case but he’s adamant and won’t even look at the notes Bryan put together. Bryan goes to visit Walter’s family where they also have reservations about another lawyer who would just take their money and scram. Bryan vows that the McMillion family won’t owe a dime and wins their support and thus, wins Walter over. Bryan discovers the prosecution has no evidence and the key eyewitness falsified his statement to get off of death row. All while Bryan is helping Walter, he has also built a case for Herbert to delay his execution on death row. Eva, while allowing Bryan to stay with them until he gets on his feet receive bomb threats at her home.
Bryan (Michael B. Jordan) pays a visit to Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson) to get a confession out of him. Bryan attempts to talk about the case, but Ralph wants no part of it. Bryan than discovers tapes that Ralph originally had a different statement that he gave to the police. Ralph is being coerced by the prosecution to get himself a better sentence. The tapes Bryan find with Eva (Brie Larson) prove that Ralph didn’t know anything about the murder nor if Walter (Jamie Foxx) was guilty to begin with. Thinking they have a shot at reopening the case, Bryan requests a retrial and puts Ralph on the stands but, at first Ralph proves to not want to assist. Instead, he is still being self-centered until Bryan asks him again while blocking the prosecution’s view if he knew anything about the murder of an 18 year old girl. Ralph finally admits the truth about what he knows but the judge doesn’t grant a retrial given lack of evidence to convict Walter.
Walter’s son John (C.J. LeBlanc) speaks up, pleading with the judge to not take his father away but the judge has John arrested. Bryan feeling down about the loss at the hearing files a stay of execution for Herbert (Rob Morgan) but gets denied and Herbert is executed with Bryan watching from the viewing room. Eva gives Bryan advice on his next steps so; he decides to participate in an interview on 60 Minutes to spread the word of the injustice that is happening. Bryan files a motion with the supreme court of Alabama who then overturns the circuit courts decision for a retrial giving Walter a second chance at freedom. Bryan also files a motion to have the charges dismissed entirely, shows up to Chapman’s (Rafe Spall) home where he tries to convince Chapman to drop the charges. Chapman kicks Bryan off his property and ultimately agrees with Bryan that the charges should be dismissed at the supreme court hearing. Realizing they just won the appeal; Walter finally gets to go home after being on death row for a crime he didn’t commit.
The fact that Jamie Foxx wasn’t nominated for best supporting actor is criminal. He gives such an emotional performance and that performance drives the movie forward whenever he is on screen. It’s heartbreaking to witness the injustice Walter goes through just because the color of his skin. The fact that this case and murder take place only 34 years ago in 1986 is a testament that racial inequality, discrimination, and bigotry still exists in America. Yes, I understand the supporting actors nominees were stacked this year but come on, two actors from The Irishman were nominated over Foxx; he was robbed. His portrayal of Walter is incredibly compelling given the state of things playing out in society.
I liked Michael B Jordan’s performance in this film as well as his pain for others that have suffered way worse at the hands of racism and discrimination is truly felt. He fights for those who cannot fight for themselves and cannot afford it. He wants to help, and he will stop at nothing to prove that his clients are being racially profiled and discriminated against. You may think that since Bryan comes from a good family and attends Harvard, he doesn’t know what its like to be discriminated against, but he does. I also liked the conviction Michael B Jordan brings to this character. His sympathy and grief for others comes off wonderfully especially in the first meeting he has while still in school and from the viewing room. That scene was tough to watch knowing that the death penalty electric chair was still around in the 1990’s.
I also thought Rob Morgan was phenomenal in this film. You really feel terrible for Herbert and everything he has gone through in life. Being a war vet and having PTSD is of course no excuse to kill someone but to condemn that person to death for the color of his skin in the south is not the answer either. It’s made clear these men weren’t given the representation they deserved until Bryan showed up. It’s like no one cared about their well being and it hurts as a human to watch that, everyone deserves that. One thing that did bother me were the court scenes themselves, they didn’t carry the weight that the film was trying to convey. Yes, the first hearing, Walter’s son spoke out but gets arrested, I just wish there was more emotion added to those scenes. I love the raw emotion these men bring to this film, you feel their pain more with every scene. It’s absolutely tragic to think that racism still exists today while we know exactly what it has led to in other countries.
The moment that I heard about this film coming out, I instantly wanted to see it in theaters but never got the chance. Last year was an anomaly with so many great films coming later in the year. Finally getting the chance to see this film was just another view into a past that should not exist but it does. Its infuriating to learn that these events happened not so long ago and the emotions from O’Shea Jackson and Rob Morgan’s characters are infinitely tragic. Films of this caliber are increasingly important because it not only teaches a lesson about American history but also proves that unless real change happens, these kinds of situations will never go away. The only difference now is that anyone and everyone will know about it the moment something hits social media. We as a people should examine films like this, Remember the Titan’s, Greenbook, The Help, Amistad to learn from our past and not make the same mistakes. If I were to rate Just Mercy I’d rate it a 4.1 out of 5.
So, tell me guys, have you seen Just Mercy and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Just Mercy is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton is Rated PG-13 and has an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. Just Mercy was released on December 25th, 2019 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 17 minutes. Just Mercy can be bought online by retailers including Vudu and Itunes.
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