Several films come to the Toronto International Film Festival with hopes of starting an Oscar campaign. JUST MERCY, for example, is a Warner Bros. movie that previously had a January 2020 release date, though industry pundits who track the Oscar race knew that if the studio had a contender, they’d shift the release date into December.
Shortly before the film made its premiere at TIFF, the release was changed to December 25, 2019.
As if that wasn’t a strong enough indicator, seeing JUST MERCY at TIFF convinced us that the legal drama could contend in a few key categories at the Academy Awards. Set between 1987 through 1993 in Alabama, the movie directed by Destin Daniel Cretton centers on a young attorney (played by Michael B. Jordan) who works with an activist (Brie Larson) to take on cases of wrongfully accused clients.
His first case is for Walter McMillan, a man wrongly framed by a corrupt police force in Alabama whose arrest came with obvious racial implications.
JUST MERCY is based on a true story, and by description, it might read like a traditional biopic, but it’s more than that. The film delivers a compelling message around social justice that will likely draw a strong emotional connection with viewers of all walks of life.
The director told AMC on the red carpet at TIFF that while this movie is set in the not-so-distant past, these types of arrests and legal cases still are happening today, and he’s thrilled that JUST MERCY can shine a light on the work being done by the legal community to free the wrongly accused.
All of the performances in JUST MERCY are believable, and Michael B Jordan’s performance could draw a nomination in the Best Actor field. His talented co-stars Jamie Foxx also could be considered for Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards, given his incredible performance as the convicted, Walter McMillian.
However, it was the performance by Rob Morgan (who plays an in-mate named Herb) that truly struck us as incredible. Keep an eye on him as a wild-card awards contender as the season rolls on. The final testimony from Michael B. Jordan at trial is so eloquent and bigger than just the trial of one man. “All we need is justice. All we need is mercy”.
In the end, JUST MERCY isn’t just a movie, it’s a movement.