By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
With so many outstanding dramatic movies jockeying for Awards Season consideration this year, I hope the legal drama “Just Mercy”
will stand out among the pack.
Directed and co-written by Destin Daniel Cretton (“The Glass Castle”), “Just Mercy” is based on the 2014 memoir “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Civil Rights attorney Bryan Stevenson.
The book was hailed by Time magazine as one of the “10 Best Books of Nonfiction” for 2014. The New York Times called it one of the “100 Notable Books” that year. It also won the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction as well as the 2015 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Nonfiction.
In the movie, “Just Mercy,” Michael B. Jordan (Upcoming “Creed III”) plays Stevenson, a young defense attorney straight out of Harvard Law School who works tirelessly to overturn Death Row convictions and free prisoners who have been falsely accused of crimes they didn’t commit.
With his pedigree, Stevenson could work pretty much anywhere he wants, instead he made it his mission to help those who can’t help themselves.
They are men like Walter McMillian (a superb performance by Oscar winning actor Jamie Foxx, Upcoming “Soul”). In 1987, McMillian (Foxx) was accused of murdering a young white woman in Monroe County, Alabama when every shred of evidence showed he wasn’t the killer.
But a southern and racist legal system certainly didn’t help McMillian’s chances. Neither did testimony from people like his former cellmate Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson, “Angel Has Fallen”).
On the surface, it would seem as if this would be an easy case to crack for Stevenson. But even McMillian isn’t confident the young, handsome and cocky lawyer can save his life because other attorneys have tried and failed.
However, Stevenson has a lot to prove, not just to himself, but to others that are faced with similar fates as McMillian. In fact, what prisoner Herbert Richardson (a terrific Rob Morgan, “Mudbound”) has experienced at the hands of this corrupt system is downright horrendous. And men like Anthony Ray Hinton (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Upcoming “Den of Thieves 2”) knows the clock is about to strike for him too.
Stevenson soon realizes that he won’t receive any breaks whatsoever and in one of the most riveting scenes in the movie he is subjected to a humiliating strip search, just because the correctional officer could make him do it.
Fortunately, Stevenson has a sharp paralegal named Eve Ansley (Sacramento’s own Oscar winning actress, Brie Larson, “Captain America”) who is also a crusader for justice and with some good old fashioned hard work and investigating, they obtain information regarding McMillian that simply can’t be ignored.
Courtroom movie dramas are a dime a dozen. Yet, with “Just Mercy,” screenwriters Andrew Lanham and Cretton have managed to convey this emotional story with just enough dramatic flair and compassion. But it’s the dynamic performances by Foxx--who has received a Screen Actors Guild nomination for “Outstanding Performance by A Male Actor in a Supporting Role” for "Just Mercy"-- and Jordan that sell “Just Mercy” and make it an exceptionally powerful biographical film.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Check Out This Trailer For "JUST MERCY"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.