Film

Review: Just Mercy True story shines light on brutal American justice system: Oscar winning performances by Foxx and B. Jordan

In a country where children are sent to adult prisons, Black men are 11 times more likely in 2020 to be given the death sentence and unfair sentencing rules, Harvard educated Lawyer Bryan Stevenson has dedicated the last 30 years fighting the unjust treatment and inequality of inmates on death row. “Not everyone is innocent but the sentencing far outweighs the crime”  says Stevenson. (Main image credit: courtesy of Warner Bros)

Adapted from his book which is a No.1 New York bestseller Just Mercy stars Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan and Brie Larson. An emotive, moving story following the case of Walter McMillian (Foxx), a married woodworker. Set in 1987 the film shows the depth of racial inequality and the toll it takes on his family.

Foxx in prison
Credit: JAKE GILES NETTER

A young Stevenson played by Jordan (Creed, Fruitvale Station, Black Panther) who first came to our attention in HBO’s The Wire, fights for the life of McMillian who is on death row wrongly convicted of murdering a white woman in Alabama. Larson plays Eva Ansley who works for Stevenson, when he sets up a law firm in the community it is not without its challenges when people learn what he is trying to do. This is one of his first cases and he is up against the courthouse staff, Sheriff Tom Tate (Michael Harding), shows no redeemable qualities and the newly appointed DA (Rafe Spall),  whose cowardice and fear of letting the “town” down stops him from being honest about the case.  The key witness convicted murderer Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson), was given a deal to identify McMillian.

Foxx and jordan
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The film was hoped by Warner Bros to be the Oscars contender it deserved to be, with notable performances by Foxx, Jordan and Nelson the best actor and supporting actor categories would have been a just nomination.  Although the film is set around 30 years ago sadly the justice system in America has not moved forward, it is uplifting to see Stevenson “crack the case” but when you think this happened in the living memory of most 30 something year olds it is a little sombre but a story that needs to be told. Director Cretton manages to capture the mood of the story providing a gripping cinematic experience. Co-produced by Michael B.Jordan. Cretton co-wrote the screenplay with Andrew Lanham (“The Glass Castle”), based on Stevenson’s book Just Mercy.

In UK cinemas today January 17th 2020.

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton; Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, Rob Morgan, O’Shea Jackson Jr. 12A cert, 137 mins

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