Updated: Mar 22, 2020
Review 2020 Just Mercy Jan. 10
With moral righteousness on its side, the movie Just Mercy wins its main battle by showing how racism ruins the judiciary system and life in general. Taking the case of a convict waiting on death row, Michael B. Jordan plays real-life lawyer Bryan Stevenson, a nineteen eighties Harvard graduate who exercises his education in Alabama and finds a sad world. Locals pride themselves for their open minds because Harper Lee grew up in their community and sensitively explored racial issues in her book To Kill a Mockingbird. Yet these more recent residents behave like their predecessors and blame a black man for murdering a white woman even though testimony puts him far from the crime scene. With that miscarriage of justice clear from the outset, Just Mercy avoids dealing with any “what if” guilt issues regarding the accused and moves forward without nuance or subtlety. Little in the way of character development or distinctions exist in the script, co-written by director Destin Daniel Cretton. Still, compelling appeal comes from a cast led by Michael B. Jordan as lawyer Stevenson. A commanding presence as he proved playing the title boxer character in the Creed movies, Jordan brings on heroic qualities as a man realizing that it takes more than education to fight a broken system. Jordan gets terrific support, with big-name recognition going to Oscar winners Brie Larson and Jamie Foxx. However, the less-famous Rob Morgan of television’s Stranger Things steals the show as one of the rare convicts who admits his guilt. More than any other character, Morgan’s provides conundrums and questions, and the actor melds these into a nuanced and heartrending performance. His situation brings another of the movie’s battles, the fight to end the death penalty. Though never hiding this goal, the story more prominently focuses on an obvious case of wrongful conviction so that Just Mercy easily solidifies its main point about a system that fails to protect the innocent.