I am a sucker for Courtroom Dramas, especially when they’re based on actual events. Add in Michael B. Jordan, who rose to fame as the star of Creed, and I’m a fan.
While this film is flying under the radar for most people, it is one to watch for perspective, understanding, and a lesson in not only history, but everything from hate to heroism. Jamie Foxx plays Walter Mcmillian, who is wrongly accused of murdering a local 18 year-old white girl in Alabama in 1987. Jordan, as real life civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, works to overturn his conviction. The acting is superb, the story compelling (and quite disturbing), and the roller coaster of emotions is endless.
The two most striking things about this move for me were the realism and the reality. Sound redundant? The realism is the extraordinary way Just Mercy accurately portrays the real life events of 1987-1992 and all of Stevenson’s work across his career. Most movies “based on real events,” take great Hollywood liberties; this one takes few. The reality, on the other hand, was twofold; first…yet another reminder of the greatest justice system on earth still being beyond imperfect. As they quote at the end of the film, for every 9 people put to death in America via the death penalty, 1 is later proven to be innocent (while an additional 2 are believed to be…in other words, somewhere between 20-33% of all people we execute are innocent…and most are black). The second reality was the reaffirmation that hate, bigotry, and racism will live forever in this country. So many of us under the age of 50 like to indignantly make sure everyone knows we weren’t around when black people couldn’t vote or interracial marriage was illegal, thus implying that we come from a more “woke” time. 1987? I was in high school! 1992? I was taking Reno radio by storm as a grown adult and, meanwhile, halfway across the country a modern day lynching was happening at epic levels (something people of my time want to believe stopped cold in the 60’s…and sadly, millennials and Gen Z-ers want to claim will stop when the rest of us are gone, something I cover in this week’s soapbox)
Just mercy is an extraordinary movie that, when it’s remembered that it’s 100% true, will be a profound wake-up call for many people who want to naively believe we live in a more civilized time.