Just Mercy is a powerful reminder that as a society we still have a long, long way to go to make it so that everyone is viewed equally as a human being, no matter their colour or class. I mean, it’s not as though we need this movie to remind us that bigotry continues to run rampant, but it’s just unbelievable that we seem to have taken so many steps backwards for any single step forward when it comes to bringing an end to racism. There’s a quote in the film where Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) tells his new lawyer, “You don’t know what it is down here (in Alabama.) When you’re guilty from the moment you’re born.” Now, I can’t relate with those words, but it’s absolutely heartbreaking to know that there are so many who can.
The film is based off a true story, where back in 1987 McMillian was convicted of murdering an 18-year old white girl and sentenced to death. It wasn’t until Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a young lawyer, fresh out of Harvard law school, moved down to Alabama to help those who couldn’t afford or didn’t have proper representation when convicted that anyone even took a proper look at the evidence against McMillian.
After starting up the Equal Justice Initiative, alongside his operations director Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), Stevenson heads to a local prison to meet with the death row inmates. Here he meets McMillian, as well as Herbert Richardson (Rob Morgan,) a black Vietnam vet who returned home from the war suffering from PTSD. Now, Richardson is the other side of the coin in this film, as he’s actually guilty of the crime he committed that landed him on death row; though he also didn’t receive a fair trial that may have allowed for him to get the help he needed for his PTSD while locked up – which likely wouldn’t have been on death row.
These are the two cases that take center stage in the movie, with McMillian’s having the starring role and Richardson’s more in the supporting. That doesn’t mean they’re both not incredibly impactful in their own ways, as each focus on the themes of the film from the perspective of someone who is guilty, as well as someone who was wrongly convicted.
It doesn’t take long for Stevenson to find out just how racist and corrupt the justice system is down there. It’s clear from the incredible lack of evidence of any kind that McMillian was locked up simply because the newly elected Sheriff, Tom Tate (Michael Harding) was feeling pressure to find the murderer of this young woman and made it his mission to make sure McMillian was convicted just to save face.
Again, it’s just such a sobering reminder how those in power truly do dictate so much, regardless of whether or not they’re just. We see it daily now with the corruption in the government favouring those who keep them in power, and from millionaires and billionaires only looking to protect the bottom line. All of this happens without regard for the lives of others, and the discrimination that was never truly gone, but was at least once thought to be the incredibly silent minority, now finds vindication through one of the loudest voices that comes from one of the highest places of power in the world.
Due to this, any thought that progress may have been made over all these decades has been snuffed out, and while this is incredibly disheartening, we have to focus on and follow after people like Bryan Stevenson and Eva Ansley, who have to wade through this hatred and corruption on a daily basis while keeping their focus on what’s right and what’s the truth, no matter how many lies are piled on top or how far away the light at the end of the tunnel may seem.
Just Mercy is an exceptionally touching film that pulls on the heartstrings without manipulating them. It’s an important film, especially now with the state of the world. And yes, that’s been said about countless similarly powerful and influential films based on true stories before it, yet we seem to be still in the same predicament when it comes to discrimination; but if Just Mercy can teach us anything it’s that we should never give up, and no matter how much hatred seems to be around us that we should never stop fighting for what’s right.
The film looks great, with the visuals giving off natural, neutral tones with no scenes that are overly dark, so it never risks muddy, distracting breakdowns in the blacks. The audio is also a solid transfer, with the dialogue, score and sound mix all working together harmoniously.
Making Mercy – This is a four minute featurette that’s just a promotional piece tacked on here. It just sees cast and crew talking about the importance of the film, and having it all come together. It’s a quick watch, and while nothing overly deep, still nice to hear the thoughts of those involved.
The Equal Justice Initiative – This is an eight minute feature that focuses on the real Bryan Stevenson and his organization and how they’re still fighting the good fight this very moment. It’s the best bonus feature on the disc, no question.
The Moment Deserves – This is a six minute featurette that focuses on the McMillian case and just how close the film is to that story. It’s nice to see that while some really minor liberties were taken, the film is an incredibly close representation of the most important parts of what went down during this time.
Deleted Scenes – There are also eight deleted scenes for those who are interested.
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Just Mercy. Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton. Written by: Destin Daniel Cretton & Andrew Lanham. Based on the book by: Bryan Stevenson. Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall. Running time: 138 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: April 14, 2020.
Tags: Brie Larson, Destin Daniel Cretton, Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy, Michael B. Jordan, Rob Morgan