Title – Just Mercy (2019)
Director – Daniel Deston Cretton (The Glass Castle)
Cast – Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Rafe Spall, Tim Blake Nelson
Plot – The true story of Alabama based death row lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) who would stop at nothing to see the wrongly convicted and sentenced to death Walter McMillan (Foxx) released from his living hell.
“We can’t change the world with only ideas in our minds. We need conviction in our hearts”
Review by Eddie on 24/04/2020
An important true story to tell, Just Mercy came and went with little fanfare when it was released towards the latter part of 2019 and early 2020, despite some solid performances and loaded subject matter, making this feature another commercial and critical disappointment for talented director Destin Daniel Cretton.
Next to be seen cinematically handling Marvel’s risky but hyped Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Cretton broke out into the industry with his great indie effort Short Term 12 but found the going tough with his unfairly treated The Glass Castle adaptation and he would’ve been hoping that his awards baiting look at the work of death row lawyer Bryan Stevenson could’ve been his genuine breakout hit.
Unfortunately for Cretton and the film this was not to be the case and while there are many solid elements to Just Mercy throughout, with particular respects to Jamie Foxx’s restrained performance as the wrongly accused death row inmate Walter McMillan and Tim Blake Nelson’s scene-stealing support as petty criminal Ralph Meyers, Cretton’s film feels too held back throughout as you wait for its truly enthused power to come.
Everything about Just Mercy feels restrained, for a film dealing with a plethora of heavy themes, subject matters and intriguing characters, you’ll be wishing Cretton really went for it more as everything plays out in a very stoic and un-fussy fashion making the plight and investigation of Michael B. Jordan’s Stevenson mostly lifeless across the films 2 hour plus running time.
We never really feel any type of rush of anticipation about what Stevenson is unearthing about McMillan’s clearly corrupted case handling or the big implications of what it all means in a larger sense of scale, while the films inability to make the most of its support cast, that includes Brie Larson, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Rafe Spall in roles that fail to make use of their talents, showcases clearly that the film had more it could’ve done to make itself a more genuinely unforgettable true life tale of justice sought.
In no world could Just Mercy be considered a bad film, the story it tells is to important and there are moments scattered throughout that hit the viewers hard, no more so than an extended sequence in which one of McMillan’s cellmates is delivered to meet his end via the electric chair, but there’s an inescapable feeling here that Just Mercy is an almost film, close to being great at times but far from the truly powerful offering it could’ve easily been.
Final Say –
Not as outstanding as Cretton’s previous two cinematic efforts, Just Mercy is solid film-making that features some great performances but its simplified approach to its material makes it a more generic affair, of the likes we’ve seen many times before.
3 ½ tin cups out of 5