Just Mercy (2020)
Every generation has its hero.
“Just Mercy” is based on the powerful and thought-provoking true story of young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Bryan had his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Larson). One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Foxx), who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the main testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings, as well as overt and unabashed racism as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds—and the system—stacked against them.
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In 1985 Bryan Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law School and instead of going to work in a fancy law firm, making lots of money and working 80 hours a week, he chose to work for the Southern Center for Human Rights. After federal funding for that program was cut he decided to create the non-profit EJI=Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Stevenson focused on Death Row cases, especially convicted minorities and worked to free Walter McMillian, a black man wrongfully convicted of murdering a white 18-year-old female based on false testimony.
In 2014 Stevenson wrote a book about the case called Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption which was made into a feature film last year that garnered critical and audience approval. Just Mercy, arguably one of the best films of 2019, is now set for release on Blu-ray and Digital HD.
Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan; Black Panther) was young and eager and simply wanted to help. Seeing as Alabama offered no public defenders for those accused of crimes he felt his assistance would be needed there most of all. Initially, he concentrated on Death Row inmates, which is where he met Walter "Johnny D" McMillian (Jamie Foxx; Ray). McMillian was accused of shooting an eighteen-year-old white woman and was convicted based on the testimony of another inmate, Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs).
Upon reviewing the evidence in the case, Stevenson realizes that the judicial system forbid the testimony of numerous witnesses who stated McMillian was with them all day at a Fish Fry. Stevenson eventually convinces Myer to tell the truth that he lied on the stand in order to request a retrial for McMillian. Surprisingly, the motion is denied in what is clearly a case of racial prejudice. However, Stevenson refuses to give up, even appearing on 60 Minutes to tell McMillian's story and how he has been wronged. He then motions for the charges to be dismissed and when the prosecution agrees, McMillian is finally set free after sitting on death row for six years.
Jordan is always a fantastic actor, no matter what character he portrays, and this role is no different. His emotions vary from sadness and anger to confusion and exhaustion and he wears it all on his face. Foxx won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray and I'd say his performance as McMillian rivals that of his Oscar-winning role. He is angry, sad disappointed, enraged, hopeful, etc. at various moments throughout the film. Jordan is joined by Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) as Stevenson's assistant Eva Ansley. They are joined by a wonderful cast of supporting actors including O'Shea Jackson, Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) who gets better with each performance he has.
The 1080p video resolution with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio makes for some excellent scenes. The details are very specific and the color tones seem to run true. The Dolby Atmos audio is slightly less stunning than the video quality but still sharp regardless. The combo pack comes with the Blu-ray Disc, Digital HD code, and minimal extras. They include: Making Mercy, The Equal Justice Initiative, This Moment Deserves, and Deleted Scenes. While not plentiful they do offer some very informative moments and great, behind the scenes, shots.
The real Stevenson is an impressive man who has built a fantastic network of non-profit legal services that helps inmates all over the country. Jordan plays him beautifully and shows the determination Stevenson still has for the truth and Justice. It's a real-life, gripping story told terrifically by a stunning cast including Jordan, Foxx, Larson, and Nelson.
At just over two hours in length, this is one movie that is worth sitting through more than once.
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