Just Mercy is a compelling look at how the cloud of racism can influence the pursuit of justice. The film also serves as a showcase/reminder of just how fantastic an actor Jamie Foxx truly is. I’m not sure the film would have resonated the way it did without Foxx’s powerhouse performance. While the story indeed centers around the rise of Bryan Stevenson (played brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan) and his crusade to take on the cases on death row, which were perceived to be the bleakest, Just Mercy soars when Foxx and Jordan are on screen. Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham strike a critical balance in the film between the facts of the case and the truth of living in rural Alabama. Had the film became just one broad political statement, it would have dulled the simple truths of Walter McMillian’s case. Imagine spending most of your life in prison for a crime you didn’t commit based on a conviction that had next to no evidence. This isn’t hyperbole. It is what happened.
The film centers on the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillian (Foxx) and the ripple effect it had on his family and the African American community. Brie Larson plays Eva (a law advocate who works with Stevenson) and plays a small role in Cretton’s piece but, at times, is a rock for Stevenson as he attempts the impossible. The film certainly shows how easy it is to lose hope in the face of adversity. It takes Stevenson’s tenacity, and Eva’s goodwill to navigate this racially charged minefield.
Overall, Just Mercy is one of the best releases of 2019. Foxx’s performance in the film is certainly worthy of an Oscar nomination. I do hope the movie doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of the new year. It certainly should be on the top of everyone’s must-see list.