After a winter night on the town in New York, my boyfriend and I were headed back to his place in Brooklyn, when we were pulled over by the cops. As the officer requested my boyfriend to step out of the vehicle, he never once communicated why or what we were being pulled over for. After a considerable amount of time goes by, another officer requests that I also get out. My coat was in the trunk and simply asked why I needed to get out as there is no legal reason for this request. Naturally, the conversation escalated after I consistently insisted our rights were being violated. With the small discovery, that my boyfriend’s father was a powerful foreign dignitary we were released. We were lucky…that time. My mouth could’ve caused us some serious repercussions. Unfortunately, this has become the norm for people of color all over our country. However, when a similar occurrence happened to Walter McMillan, things would never be the same for six years until he crossed paths with Bryan Stevenson.
Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Harvard law graduate, felt compelled to make his way to the south in order to assist prisoners in Monroe County, Alabama. You know that town. It’s the one that has been made famous by Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird.’ With the aid of Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), a local equally committed to prisoner’s rights, Stevenson sets up a small office to take on the most challenging of cases — death row inmates. It’s 1989, but walking into the W.C. Holman Correctional Facility is like stepping back into the South before the Civil Rights movement. A facility that would rather dehumanize legal counsel of color to make sure they ‘know their place.’
Walter McMillian (Jaime Foxx) was arrested for killing a white woman and deposited on death row before he even had a trial. The ‘good ol’ boys’ of Alabama wouldn’t seem to know the truth if it smacked them in the face, but Stevenson and Ansley are determined to hold the justice system accountable for their creative twisting of facts and the law.
Michael B. Jordan and Jaime Foxx are crafting Oscar worthy performances that will permeate every fiber of your being while watching them bring these amazing men to life. Their pairing is truly a magical revelation and a dream collaboration of the silver screen. Jordan adds new layers to the commanding presence he’s brought to the Creed and Black Panther films, while Foxx gives one of the best performances of his career. Rob Morgan is simply nothing short of wonderful and Brie Larson is adding yet another complex character to her arsenal of films.
Kudos to Director Destin Daniel Cretton for adding to the cumulative power of a film that is not just a true story, but a story committed to revealing truths through the real-life stories of these men (some of whom have be railroaded into a life and world that many of them do not deserve. But, the real MVP of this film is Bryan Stevenson, as if it were not for his life and commitment to justice I wouldn’t be writing this review.
Just Mercy is a film that will inspire you to look beyond the crime and see the men or women accused. Yes, some of them have committed some heinous crimes, Maybe, just maybe, those individuals are people who have served our country and suffer from severe PTSD. Maybe they have mental health issues that require medical attention and not death row. Think about it. Every human being on this earth is a daughter, son, mother or father who deserves to be treated with empathy or simply JUST MERCY. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? The corrupt justice system of America happened. A system that seems to work for any and everyone except JUST US. The truth shall set you free or does it.