A lot of films at this time of year focus on true stories, whether they be dramatized retellings or fictional products inspired by actual events. Director Destin Daniel Cretton’s latest film, JUST MERCY, is perhaps one of the most inspirational examples of a film based on real events, as its true-to-life plot is something that is timely and should be seen by all.
JUST MERCY focuses on the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man who was arrested in 1987 for the murder of Ronda Morrison, a young dry cleaning clerk in Monroeville, Alabama. Quickly convicted and sentenced to death, McMillian would find a powerful advocate in a young, idealistic lawyer fresh out of law school: Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan).
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Stevenson would eventually move down south to take on cases such as Walter McMillian’s, instances where the law had clearly failed and justice was to be had. JUST MERCY focuses mostly on Stevenson’s work on the McMillian case, but in his memoir of the same name, there are other stories of legal battles the legendary lawyer would fight with his knowledge and conviction.
The depiction of Bryan Stevenson’s valiant fight for justice is the heart of JUST MERCY’s story, and an important reminder that sometimes justice isn’t easy, but it’s always worth the effort. Over the span of several years, various appeals and a watershed "60 Minutes" segment, Stevenson and McMillian’s story unfolds as a tale that those who aspire to legal greatness should take note of.
Even more important, though, is the fact that JUST MERCY is also a film for fans of uplifting dramas that show the power of community and making things right. With an all-star cast that includes Brie Larson, Rafe Spall, Tim Blake Nelson and O’Shea Jackson Jr., the film has a lot of familiar faces telling an unfamiliar story — one that is vital to the understanding of modern history in the American judicial system.
This movie might even be an awards contender, as Academy Award® winners Larson and Jamie Foxx could find themselves nominated for some repeat honors, and Michael B. Jordan (who also serves as a producer on the film) just might find himself being nominated. Overall, JUST MERCY is a film that audiences and awards voters will want to pay attention to, as it speaks to the issues of today and tells a historical narrative that has been waiting for its moment to be heard.
JUST MERCY opens in limited release on December 25, as part of the AMC Artisan Films series, and expands on January 10. Be sure to check your local listings for showtimes and tickets.