JUST MERCY gracefully tells the early beginnings of “World-renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson”. Do writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton and a tremendous cast do justice to the legacy of Mr. Stevenson?
Bryan Stevenson is one of those figures in the American legal system that deserves as much praise as possible. After helping overturn 135 death row convictions Stevenson has forever changed the way we view and interact with our judicial system. Tackling a living legend is something that needs to be handled with graceful hands. Destin Daniel Cretton patient filmmaking makes his film come across with that real grace. The movie never dives into depths of unbelievable actions. Instead we witness a man trying to make a real difference by just doing his due diligence. His constant work ethic makes his struggle so endearing. When you also give us the helpless nature of the convicted inmates this film truly soars above all other “legal” dramas. Michael B. Jordan stoically carries the weight of is portrayal of Stevenson. It’s a bit shocking more award recognition hasn’t been given to Jordan, Brie Larson, and Jamie Foxx. Brie Larson is a nice carry over from Cretton’s brilliant Short Term 12 and underrated Glass Castle. Larson is allowed to dive into real life Eva Ansley especially physically with her hair choice and with a decent southern accent. Foxx though is the film’s main compass of emotion. His anger, fear and pain are all on point though the dosage of these emotions is perfectly spread throughout the film. Foxx, like his real life counterpart William McMillian, is shown as a man forever impacted by such injustice. Rob Morgan’s portrayal of Herbert Richardson is one of the film’s true highlights though. A man impacted by the Vietnam war and also altered in terribly painful ways by a blind Judicial system Richardson is given new life through Morgan’s take. Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall and O’Shea Jackson Jr. round out this amazing cast and each deliver a pivotal performance.
Back to Morgan’s portrayal as Richardson. The film allows us to witness his full history into the death row chair that would take his life. We are given his early interactions with Jordan’s Stevenson and the death row moments spent with Foxx and Jackson are handled with real care. Richardson actual final days are captured in such an honest and truthful way. Easily 2019’s most emotionally draining sequence is seeing Richardson’s execution through the eyes of Stevenson. From the walk to the prayer to the time in the room to Herbert’s peaceful final words to the powerful jolt that ends his life we see the real pain of the system. Stevenson’s legacy is cemented in as much the men he’s freed as it is in those that weren’t allowed their escape from our Justice system.
A film that is worth your time and money simply so you can have your heart and soul touched.
I’ll leave you with a few quotes from Bryan Stevenson that truly showcase his tremendous impact on our country.
“You ultimately judge the civility of a society not by how it treats the rich, the powerful, the protected and the highly esteemed, but by how it treats the poor, the disfavored and the disadvantaged.”
“In many ways, we’ve been taught to think that the real question is, do people deserve to die for the crimes they’ve committed? And that’s a very sensible question. But there’s another way of thinking about where we are in our identity. The other way of thinking about it is not, do people deserve to die for the crimes they commit, but do we deserve to kill?”
“Somebody has to stand when other people are sitting. Somebody has to speak when other people are quiet.”
Go see this one it’s a must see film.
Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Written by: Destin Daniel Cretton & Andrew Lanham based on book by Bryan Stevenson
Selig Rating A
Running Time: 2h 16min
Wide Release: January 10th
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Rafe Spall, Tim Blake Nelson, O’Shea Jackson Jr. & Rob Morgan
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.