Disclaimer: This film is rated PG-13 as it contains usage of strong language, some thematic elements, and some racial epithets. Viewer discretion highly advised.
The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of clay Magazine or TPS.
No one can deny that 2020 will remain an unforgettable year. With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the world and the number of cases re-spiking, we find ourselves once again on the brink of lockdown and national emergencies. Added on to this are the uncontrollable forest fires raging in the West Coast, which have devastated over three million acres of land–almost the size of Connecticut. In the East Coast, Americans had been set against Hurricane Sally, whose catastrophic effects are yet to be seen as the storm continues to build up. However, another event has stood out quite uniquely apart from these devastative natural disasters. The death of George Floyd and the shooting of Breonna Taylor have sparked a movement across America, the like of which has been unseen in over fifty years. To this pervasive confusion and chaos, I think it would be helpful for our world to take a moment to consider the movie Just Mercy, which seems to address this very issue people are protesting over.
Just Mercy was released in 2019 among a wave of remarkable films and proved itself as one of them with its moving storyline and powerful execution–along with wonderful acting and a euphonious soundtrack. Based on the memoir written by lawyer Bryan Stevenson, both book and film alike have received high acclaim for its ability to capture the emotional journey of an African American prisoner to freedom. The film features Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson, who all expressed in interviews what an unforgettable experience it was to play a part in the emotional drama. While these actors may only seem fit for major superhero, action-packed roles as they often had in the past, this film begs to differ. Jordan and Foxx especially professed that acting in the film was very emotional. Foxx indicated that this was perhaps the greatest film he ever played a part in, and Jordan confessed that after one intense scene he broke down in tears backstage because of the impact it had on him. The whole supporting cast likewise shared how the movie inspired them to get up and make a change in the world as Bryan Stevenson had.
Set during the 1980s, the story centers around Walter McMillian, a man falsely accused of murdering an eighteen-year-old girl beloved by her Alabaman community. Instead of being given a fair trial, he is condemned with death row upon the basis of coerced testimonies and bribed witnesses. After two years in prison, McMillian meets Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard graduate lawyer who gives legal assistance to prisoners on death row in Montgomery. Though McMillian initially remains hesitant to accept him because of the heartlessness he saw in his previous lawyer, Stevenson’s compassion and genuine desire to help eventually win him over. Whether by meeting McMillian’s family, reviewing the transcripts of the testimonies, or interviewing each member of his first trial, Stevenson relentlessly fights against the current of racism towards McMillian to bring this innocent man’s case to justice. Along the way, he faces resistance from state authorities who obstinately attempt to prevent the truth from being exposed, along with a separate traumatizing experience that forever scars Stevenson. However, as he persists, all his efforts eventually culminate into a triumphant, tear-jerking finale that reunites McMillian back with his family.
Just Mercy doesn’t contain the action of a thriller nor the static facts of a documentary; rather, it is an honest portrayal of a falsely accused man battling against a torrent of corruption and injustice during his time, carried out by an emotionally dedicated cast. By championing justice, the movie proves that every person deserves a chance for mercy, and that “each of us is more than the worst thing that we’ve ever done.”
Cinema Blend, “Just Mercy Cast Interviews with Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and More,” YouTube, 8 Jan. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVXCzBXpskU&ab_channel=CinemaBlend
Jake’s Takes, “JUST MERCY Interviews: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson, Bryan Stevenson,” YouTube, 15 Dec. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyaWjhup-kQ&ab_channel=Jake%27sTakes
Silverman, H. (2020, September 15). California wildfires have burned an area almost the size of Connecticut. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://edition.cnn.com/2020/09/14/us/california-wildfires-monday/index.html
F. (2019). Just Mercy wallpaper [Digital image]. Retrieved 2020, from https://fanart.tv/fanart/movies/522212/moviebackground/just-mercy-5e0ad978e7f50.jpg