Watching the wheels of injustice turn

Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan in Just Mercy (IMDB)

Just Mercy is an interesting exploration of the US justice system and a powerful argument against capital punishment. Source: ACOFB.

By Fr Peter Malone MSC, ACOFB

The Psalms proclaim that "justice and mercy have met", but this is not the case in Alabama in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, instead of justice, there are many travesties of justice. This is especially the case for prisoners on death row.

It is based on the true story of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a young African American from a poor family in Delaware who experienced the unjust murder of his grandfather. Educated in law at Harvard, Bryan did an internship in Alabama in the mid-1980s where he encountered men on death row. Upon graduation, he packed his bags and drove to Monroeville, Alabama, the home of author Harper Lee and her most famous character – the most exemplary of American lawyers, Atticus Finch.

With the help of a local assistant, Eva (Brie Larson), Bryan sets up an office and has the names of six prisoners whom he wants to interview.

The principal focus of this story is on one of the inmates, Walter McMillian (a strong performance by Jamie Foxx) who was put on death row even before his trial. McMillian is a man with solid alibis who was held up on the road by hostile police, targeted by an even more hostile sheriff and found guilty on the most unreliable testimony of alleged witnesses.

Bryan takes on the case and confronts the local DA (Rafe Spall), a racist who is heavily influenced by the sheriff. This makes the plot interesting in terms of detection, investigation, potential witnesses, the confrontation with the main witness (an excellent cameo from Tim Blake Nelson), hopes, judicial frustrations, appeals to good nature and true justice.

There is a moving subplot with another prisoner, Herbert Richardson (Robert Morgan), a Vietnam veteran with PTSD who created and planted a bomb which killed a woman. Richardson is repentant and hoping for an unlikely stay of execution.

As with so many films these days, there are photos of the main protagonists, further information about the characters, but a fine tribute to Bryan Stevenson and his dedication.

Just Mercy: Starring Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Jamie Foxx, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, Robert Morgan, O'Shea Jackson Jr. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. 137 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes).


Just Mercy (ACOFB)


2020 Film Reviews (ACOFB)

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