Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Review: Just Mercy

Release date: January 10, 2020
Running time: 136 minutes
Starring: Brie Larson, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx

Just Mercy is an inspiring, timely, and sadly appropriate in our times movie about a young lawyer's fight to overturn a wrongful death penalty conviction.  The movie is a powerful reminder of the flaws in the legal system and how slowly and reluctantly the wheels of justice can turn.  In it, a young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) takes the case of Walter McMillian (Foxx), a man on death row who was convicted of a brutal killing after a trial that lasted a day and a half.  This black inmate was convicted by a jury with no black jurors, who looked at no physical evidence, and only the testimony of two shaky individuals.  

Just Mercy will be lauded for its acting and for the most part it is well deserved.  Jamie Foxx completely transforms into Walter McMillian, to the point where the actor is barely recognizable.  He takes on all of his mannerisms and portrays the man perfectly.  There is only one part where you can see Jamie Foxx the actor, and it's actually in a part where I wish they had kept him as McMillian.  Brie Larson is fantastic, as usual.  And the supporting characters are all amazingly cast and acted.  Images of the real life individuals are shown during the credits and many of the actors portrayed these characters flawlessly.  Unfortunately, Michael B. Jordan is my only disappointment from this film.  He is a fine actor and is really great in his dramatic takes, but his delivery often feels forced.  This was definitely an opportunity for him to really elevate his career and acting dynamics, but for whatever reason his performance just didn't rise to the occasion.

But what really stood out was the cinematography.  There are shots that are so perfectly composed that it conveys the dread and hopelessness of the situations without having to overtly say it.  There are so many small scenes like this that really give the audience a feeling for how unjust this situation was, how dire the consequences facing these individuals were, or just how dreadful this fight was.  Each of these help to build an amazing portrait of justice in America, and the need to fight for that justice one step at a time.  And all of this is helped along by some amazing musical selections that really set the tone.  Be it period pieces, important songs to the characters, or music to set the mood, this film perfectly conveys its message both visibly and audibly. 

Just Mercy is an inspiring, timely, and sadly appropriate movie for our times.  It has Oscar-worthy acting, amazing cinematography, and tells an important story that that doesn't leave a heart untouched or an eye dry at its conclusion.

Watch It

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