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Film Review: “Just Mercy” (2019) ★★


It’s a sad reality that people not only in the US but in all the other parts of the world were sent to jail for crimes they did not commit. Moreover, while the vast majority of countries do not practice capital punishment, the US sadly does. People were accused wrongly for many reasons – due to the color of the skin, lack of money to hire a better lawyer, or an investigator who wanted a promotion and so a closed case would certainly speed that process up. Reasons are many but the one who ends up on death row normally has no chance to plead for mercy and get a second chance.

Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Harvard-educated lawyer, just got his license. He is all for justice to be served. Always wanted to protect the most vulnerable ones, the ones who had no money to hire a lawyer. Realizing the number of wrongly convicted inmates sent to death row, the young man goes to Alabama to defend falsely condemned prisoners, including Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) who was still found guilty despite evidence proving his innocence. Bryan’s mother warns him that with the mission he is about to embark on, he is going to make many people angry. But the young determined man, full of kindness, has only one thing that concerns him – the one who is innocent should get a chance for retrial or be released from prison immediately.

Based on Bryan Stevenson’s book and adapted by Destin Daniel Cretton, “Just Mercy” lacks fresh blood. There’s something about it that will make you feel indifferent, which should have been the other way around. As the story itself is powerful and important to be told, however, the screenplay written by Andrew Lanham and Destin Daniel Cretton misses the point. Also worth mentioning is the appearance of Brie Larson as Eva Ansley, which does absolutely nothing throughout the film. In certain scenes, she does not even deliver a line; it’s almost like she was hired just for her appearance and nothing more. Someone with the acting skills of Brie Larson cannot be wasted in any movie but unfortunately, Cretton did not realize that.

“Just Mercy” is not a bad film – let’s be clear about that. There’s no way you should be influenced by what I am saying because what I disliked very much can be admired by you. It just was not strong enough for me to process the whole story as someone who is interested in capital punishment and believes there are more stories like this that must be told. For instance, there are films that I’ve seen during the festival that conveys important messages such as “Marriage Story”, “Harriet”, “Jojo Rabbit”, The Two Popes”, and even “Joker”. Unfortunately, “Just Mercy” did not have one.

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