Looking over the movie choices this week I thought I was going to be in trouble as the only choices I had were Underwater and Like a Boss. Fortunately, Hollywood was merciful this weekend and put out two other films in wide release, and the one that I’m going to talk about is Just Mercy. From the trailer this looks like another Oscar bait film due to it being released in awards season, though I have been surprised before. Will I be surprised with this film? As always let’s find out. Also there are some slight spoilers ahead.
In Just Mercy we follow Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a young defense attorney who relocates to Alabama to help inmates who face the death penalty. One case that the film focuses on is Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who faces electrocution after being accused of killing an eighteen year old woman. From there Bryan does whatever it takes to get Walter’s death sentence appealed, though this is more of a challenge for him than he expected due to race and the environment that he’s in being factors in the case.
On the whole, there’s nothing really wrong with the filmmaking in Just Mercy, but there’s nothing groundbreaking either. Still, what they do here really works to its advantage. Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx definitely shine here with their performances, and it’s hard not to get emotional during moments that involve a touchy subject. One scene that got me was when Bryan was watching someone get electrocuted after he failed to appeal a case. While they don’t show the action directly, it’s still a powerful scene that pushes Bryan forward to getting Walter’s case appealed.
As mentioned earlier, there’s nothing in Just Mercy that’s new when it comes to the filmmaking, but if there’s one thing that I loved in this film it’s the topic of pro-life. As Catholics, whenever we hear the phrase pro-life we automatically assume anti-abortion (at least in my opinion), and the death penalty is something that most people don’t want to discuss. This film touches on being anti-death penalty completely and shows the importance of life and when Walter’s charges are dropped at the end the film. It reminds you of the significance of hope and how everyone’s life still has value. If there’s any complaint that I did have towards the ending, it was that it felt a little rushed and resolved in a manner that could’ve been fixed early in the film. This is very minor, though, and that shouldn’t be a deciding factor if you go and see this film.
Even though Just Mercy is PG-13, it’s not an easy watch as the film touches on race discrimination, but it’s something that everyone should see. A lot of people would say that Unplanned is a great pro-life film, but to me this is the one that most people need to watch for themselves and really focus on the innocence of an individual and not quickly resorting the death sentence. Not a contender for best film of 2019, but I’m really glad that I saw this film.