By Brendan Labra, Student Writer
In the coming weekend, Messiah College Lost Films will be showing Just Mercy(2019). The film, based on true events, follows the retrial of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) and his lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan).
Just Mercy has been met positively from both audiences and critics and has been praised for its ability to expose the questionable antics of the 1980s Alabama police and justice system. With a compelling plot and tremendous acting, Just Mercy forces the audience to reassess their own prejudices as well as the morality of the death penalty.
The film starts off in a beautiful scene of McMillian working in the woods chopping down trees. McMillian is on his way home from the job when a police officer pulls him over, and quickly and aggressively arrests McMillian.
From here, we have a time jump and are introduced to Michael B. Jordan’s character, Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson, a recent graduate from Harvard Law School, has plans to move down south and start a corporation with the main objective of assisting those who have been put on death row.
This leads to the first meeting between the film’s two main characters. Stevenson and McMillian meet briefly at first as McMillian seems disinterested and tired of pursuing another case. After denying legal assistance McMillian retreats back to his cell on death row.
Stevenson, seemingly unwilling to give up, visits McMillian’s family and tries to communicate his case to them. After meeting with them and doing more research, he firmly believes that there is not a single shred of evidence that should convict McMillian of the crime he has been arrested for.
After this meeting, Stevenson meets with McMillian again, who is impressed with Stevenson’s commitment. The two decide to work together and begin working towards an appeal.
Just Mercy contains a plethora of important themes that are meant to land uncomfortably with the audience. Firstly, the film focuses a lot on the modern racism of the south. Most white people in the film seem to be struggling with the concept of an African-American lawyer from Harvard. The police officers and jail security also commonly use racial prejudice and even racial slurs at times.
Another underlying theme of the film that is presented is the morality of the death penalty. While it may seem like it should be an obvious takeaway from the film considering that Stevenson’s job focuses around this concept, the filmmakers do a good job at making this an underlying theme that the audience really has to think about and reflect on. We are introduced to multiple characters that are on death row alongside McMillian. Getting to know these character’s stories and lives humanizes those who are currently on death row.
Just Mercy is a film that works wonderfully on various levels. It is filled with fantastic performances from Jordan and Foxx as well as from various side characters. The best aspect of the film however is the impression that it leaves on its audience. Don’t miss your chance to go see Just Mercy this weekend at Lost Films.
Just Mercy gets 4/5 stars.