“Just Mercy” is a film that connects directly at the heart of the viewer, grips it tightly, and does not let go for the duration. The story depicts events that actually took place, with real human portrayals, not characters and the result is emotionally gripping. It thrives through its sincerity, not melodrama to clench the viewers attention and it was a complete cinematic package. Seeing the injustice that takes place early in the first-act effectively creates a strong emotional investment. It creates a natural connection to the character performances and seeing the determination of Bryan Stevenson through the heartfelt performance from Michael B. Jordan is more than enough to carry this movie.
The progression of the story layers is familiar to other biopics as far as its scene flow and three-act structure. But the personalities and the personal relationships that grow in the story make it easily captivating. Stevenson is shocked to see the horrible treatment of Walter McMillian and it fuels his mission for justice, as well as the viewers intrigue to see how it will play out. The script takes the time needed to develop the people involved. And through the building of his case, Stevenson connects with the McMillian family, and others to shine a light on the treatment of African Americans in this rural town. The politics of the region and the railroading of suspects to close cases even in those lacking evidence is explored, and it can easily create anger while you watch. Which will make you want to see justice prevail.
Something I appreciated was the genuine vibe overall. The events depicted on their own are horrible and can grab the core of the viewers heart. The emotional intensity is already in place because of that aspect, and this movie doesn’t try to add onto it simply for dramatic effect. It has an ‘as is’ feel to how it covers these real-life events and with the tone of the drama lacking that intentional guidance it allows the viewer to completely engage themselves in these lives for two-hours. It will break your heart and put it back together again. It will capture the power of the human spirit, and the bond people can grow with one another. It will make you feel uneasiness, as well as endearing warmth, and result is an intimate and equally raw experience.
The emotional connection is fueled by the performances. Brie Larson was excellent in a smaller role bringing life to it with her screen presence alone. Michael B. Jordan brings a performance that shows why he’ll someday be an Oscar winner, and Jamie Foxx was sincere in his portrayal of McMillian. The chemistry between Foxx and Jordan hits every emotional beat needed and watching their relationship grow was captivating. The quality of this film shines from the crisp direction and cinematography, to the grounded but charged performances. The writing doesn’t try too hard and it keeps the focus on the situations taking place in the story, not on overly theatrical dialogue between the characters. Each element blends together to complement the other and it allows the powerful message to hit home leaving you thinking long after the end credits roll.