By: Movie Snurb (Two Beers) –
Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) is imprisoned in Alabama for the murder of a young white woman in 1987. Though there is little evidence to say Walter had anything to do with the murder, only a coerced testimony, he is sentenced to death. Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) is a recent Harvard Law graduate who has decided to help those who are unable to help themselves. So, he works for those who he believes were wrongfully convicted and attempts to either overturn their conviction or their death sentence. Quickly Bryan finds he is not welcome in Alabama and how so many men were convicted there with little evidence.
The acting is what carries this film. Michael B. Jordan is excellent, taking everything in silently and using his expressions to let the audience know the hurt, anger, sadness, and frustration he feels. Brie Larson is great, though it is a smaller part for her. I loved the bit part by Tim Blake Nelson. He’s one of our great character actors and should be treasured. Lastly, Jamie Foxx is the best thing about this film. This could be his best stuff since Django Unchained and Ray. He’s not perfect, he’s not pious, he’s a human and one who has wrongfully been sentenced to death. The end scene in the court room is played perfectly. His reactions feel honest and real. It’s a great performance.
Thanks to the acting, but also the editing and direction, this film packs a heavy emotional punch. There is a particular scene a little over halfway through when one of Bryan’s clients is sentenced to death. The entire scene is edited, acted, directed, and filmed so perfectly it will leave you a bawling mess on the floor. It’s an example of perfect editing if there ever was one, OK maybe the entire film Parasite also qualifies. I also appreciated the small arc one of the guards has as he realizes that not every inmate is a monster. It’s believable and not played for huge effect.
This movie is quite good, and with everything going right for it, it still feels like a film that was made in the 90s. There were beats that you could map out. Moments you could predict. It all felt like I had seen this movie before, the only difference is it’s not a white savior film like it would be 25 years ago.
Just Mercy is a well-acted drama about justice and injustice in America. If you’re looking for a film to see in January and you’ve seen all the likely award films from last year that are out now, go watch this one.
Just Mercy (2019) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every establishing shot. (There were a lot for some reason.)
Take a Drink: every time a character cries.
Do a Shot: every time you cry.
Do a Shot: for any racist incident. (Maybe not, you might die- don’t die for racists)