Here is the second 2019 film that was given its wide release in 2020. meaning that I had a chance to see it for the first time.
Just Mercy is the true story of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Harvard educated lawyer, who moves to Alabama to start up a group to try and provide justice for people convicted and awaiting execution on death row. He met up with Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man convicted of a brutal murder that he did not commit, but was railroaded onto death row because he was black and because the community needed someone to pay for the crime.
It is astounding that injustices like this case can go on in America and it truly highlights the issues we have in our judicial system when it comes to race. How a man could wind up on death row with such a flimsy case against him is shocking and should be something that we all are ashamed of as Americans. Because the case was so thin, the drama provided in this movie is top notch. There is a sequence involving an electric chair execution that is just painful to watch.
Jamie Foxx is tremendous in his role. He goes through the full ringer and the acting in the third act of the movie is some of the best I have seen from him in any movie. Michael B. Jordan is solid as Bryan, but he is not at the same level in this movie as Foxx. The secondary characters are well acted and provide a lot of balance for the film. Brie Larson is good as Bryan’s aid/associate.
This is a performance heavy film, though there are strong moments throughout as well, including the aforementioned execution scene. There are a couple of scenes where Bryan faces racially motivated situations that show how racism is embedded within our culture. The fact that this was going on in the town where Harper Lee based her “To Kill A Mockingbird” and people kept referring to the museum dedicated to that book is one of the most ironic aspects of the film.
Just Mercy was better than I thought it would be, as I had heard some middling reviews of it. Every review stated how good Jamie Foxx was in his role, and I agree completely. The film ended with a statistic that for every 9 executions in this country there is one person released from death row who was falsely convicted. That is a devastating stat and makes one wonder about the effectiveness of the death penalty.