Just Mercy tells the true story of Walter McMillan, a black man from Alabama who sits on death row after he is wrongfully accused in the murder of Ronda Morrison, a white woman. This movie focuses on all the trials and tribulations that McMillan goes through in the harrowing journey to prove his innocence.
Not only is this the story of McMillan, played by Jamie Foxx, but also the story of his lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, played by Michael B. Jordan, who comes from the north where racism and prejudice is not as apparent as it is in a state like Alabama. We see the struggle of trust that McMillan has with Stevenson because he thinks Stevenson does not understand what it is like to face racial oppression on a daily basis and that it will be impossible for him to earn a re-trial because of being in the deep south.
Being of black descent, this movie hit me very hard at a certain point when another black man on death row, Herbert Richardson, played by Rob Morgan, is not as lucky as McMillan will be later on the film and we see his final moments before he is electrocuted to death. Richardson did not receive fair treatment either because he was man that struggled with PTSD after coming back from war, was kicked to the curb and never received the help that one with his condition should have received. The conversations he has with Stevenson before his death and the one he has with McMillan and Ray, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr., about how he did not mean to kill the girl he is sitting on death row because of.
This movie isn’t meant to promote white guilt or say that white people are all racists. It just wants people to be aware that racial bias exists. McMillan was done dirty by a judicial system that did not give a damn if a black man lives or dies or given a proper trial. Even though times are better in 2020, we still have oppression in the judicial system today. One of the quotes that got me raging was one that said that McMillan was obviously the killer because his mug shot made him look like someone that would commit a crime such as murder. I have to pull back for a second because even though racism exists today, I am still appreciative for being born in this time because it was a lot worse just 30 years ago in the 1990s where, as a black man, it was very unlikely you would get fair treatment just because of the color of your skin.
Michael B. Jordan is just fine in the film but he is outshined by Foxx and Morgan. Foxx continues to be one of the most under-appreciated entertainers ever and his performance in this film is award-worthy. Brie Larson, who plays Eva Ansley, is phenomenal as well. She is more-suited for films of a serious nature like this than being a main staple in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Technically is the where this film suffers. The transitions from scene-to-scene are repetitive with a majority of them being Stevenson driving in a car with some blues music being layered over it. I did enjoy the soundtrack quite a bit but every transition scene was almost copy-and-paste from others in the film. This movie is over two hours long and it feels longer than that honestly. While I appreciate the fact that we spend more time with McMillan and the others on death row and how they deal with it, there was just little to no attention to pacing and it really slows down this film. To add on to these scenes, there is a lot of shot-reverse shot, where we see the face of one person speak and then the shot will reverse to where we see the other person speak. It’s not distracting but it is very apparent here.
Outside of those negatives, I really enjoyed the film. It’s a slow-burner but one I recommend for those who want to be more aware of racial bias and how the judicial system still treats people of color.
Also, I want to add on that when I saw the film with a couple of friends last night, there was a group of five young white women in front of us. This was like the most blatant exhibit of black people being hyper-sexualized as they were not invested in the film in the slightest. They were on their phones for most of the film and oooohed and ahhhed whenever they saw Michael B. Jordan on screen, especially when he has to strip down in one scene. It’s just frustrating. Don’t be those people.