Just Mercy

*****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Just Mercy
"Director Destin Daniel Cretton takes it at the right pace and avoids made-to-measure emotional hooks." | Photo: Warner Bros

Whatever you say.

Whatever you think when you are told, like I am telling you now, that this is about racism in Alabama a decade ago, maybe more, although the distance in time is less imposing than the power of prejudice, ingrained or otherwise.

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You've been here before. Or so you believe.You're wrong. You say, "I saw Mississippi Burning when it came out. I know about white supremacy. I watched Paris Trout. I watched A Time To Die. Don't lecture me on the Klan. I've seen the crosses burn." The truth of colour makes murderers in their minds. Not yours. You stand apart.

Just Mercy has a title that tells you nothing. The title is a turn off.

Turn back. At once. It's worth your patience and your trust. The writer, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B Jordan). wrote a book that became a bestseller about his experience in the South after graduating from Harvard, where he attempted to defend and resurrect hope with a series of retrials for those lingering on Death Row who had never received legal advice of any kind whatsoever.

Police behaviour is shocking even today when you think you've read it all in the Book of Torture. Stevenson, being black, is not spared ridicule even from the families of those he is offering to support. They don't understand. What's a smart, well mannered ex-student of Whitey's most prestigious further education college in the North doing in a Southern state where respect for human rights - any rights as a matter of fact - is a joke and systematically ignored?

Such a film cries out for sympathy and heroic defiance on Stevenson's part. Director Destin Daniel Cretton takes it at the right pace and avoids made-to-measure emotional hooks. He is helped by Jordan's sensitive performance and by Jamie Foxx as a prisoner convicted of killing an 18-year-old white girl on the dubious evidence of an unreliable drug addict.

Surprise creeps up beside you as the plot evolves. Facts strike home with increasing impact, especially in the knowledge that they are "based on real events". If truth hurts it can also swim in deeper waters.

Reviewed on: 09 Jan 2020
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The true story of a social justice lawyer's fight to prove the innocence of an African-American on Death Row.

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham, Bryan Stevenson

Starring: Brie Larson, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Rafe Spall, Tim Blake Nelson, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Rob Morgan, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Claire Bronson, Rhoda Griffis, Karan Kendrick, Tonea Stewart, Drew Scheid, Lindsay Ayliffe, Mary Kraft

Year: 2019

Runtime: 136 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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