Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton, 2019): USA

Reviewed by Kaio Farkouh. Viewed at the 2019 AFI festival.

It was back in 2013 when the Hawaiin director made his breakout work for the movie “Short Term 12.” Since then, he has failed to achieve the standard that he put on himself. One year later, in 2014, he failed to achieve expectations with the movie “The Glass Castle.” Now, in 2019 he is back once again trying to redeem himself with his new film, “Just Mercy,” which mostly feels like an Oscar-bait rather than an unconventional, original story about redemption and forgiveness.

Based on a real story, the films follow Bryan Stevenson, played by Michael B. Jordan, who plays a lawyer. Stevenson drives to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned. The film, mostly, focuses on his case with the condemned Walter McMillian, played by Jamie Foxx, who back in 1987 was sentenced for a murder of a white girl and is sentenced to death row.

The film was written by Cretton and Andrew Lanham, they create a story that is captivated enough for you to care for the two main characters. Jordan, who has been one of the most interesting people in Hollywood by his diversity of roles. His first work, in Fruitvale Station, showed how good he can be in dramas. However, he has been a bit stuck in the Creed series and has been mostly known for his physicality. Last year, he reminded the world with the big hit, Black Panther, that he can act. Here, in Just Mercy, he plays a lawyer who is very self-contained. He is aware of who he is and what he is against. As the story progress, he notices that he is not only trying to save McMillian, but he is facing a system. But who shines the most here is Jamie Foxx, who also played a very self-contained character but his self contains comes from his mind and soul, because he knows that he did not murder the girl. Although, when he is aware that this is more a racial case rather than a justice case, he is capable of showing his real feelings and what is truly behind this self contention.

Besides the two main characters, the story fails to create a good case for the rest of the cast. Names such as Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Rob Morgan are in someway wasting their talents in a narrative that there is not much for them to do.

The story itself fails to create something original. It has very predictable dialogues and character developments that you have seen before. However, thanks to the two main characters, the story is captivating enough to make you care for it. Even if you have an idea of how the film will end, the movie can show themes that reflect in the present day.

Inequality and injustice are two of the strongest themes of the movies. As they go to the supreme court to reverse the case, we see how black people are threatened by injustice. It is by the end of the movie that we see the redemption of characters. But, it fails to convey an intriguing and thrilling trial scene to conclude the story.

Creton covers interesting themes that mostly work thanks to the two main characters. However, the themes approached in the movie fail to lands in new territories. This makes me wonder if this is the type of drama film that is usually released in the fall to have a shot at the Oscar.

 

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