Movie Review: Just Mercy

“Just Mercy” is a film about another true story that could never work if it was a work of fiction, because nobody would believe that in this country, the legal system could be as bad as it was in Alabama in 1987. This story would be more believable in a 3rd world country, or in this country long before any standard of legal justice or common sense rules were established.

This unbelievable true story involves a corrupt Sheriff and Prosecutor who used the death penalty to force a witness to lie on the stand to convict Walter McMillian, played by Jamie Foxx. They sent McMillan to death row, even before his trial began! This all happened in the United States, in the year 1987. Without the help of a Harvard educated lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, played by Micheal B. Jordan, McMillan and many other innocent prisoners would have put to death in the electric chair. At the end of this movie, it was stated that the error rate for death row prisoners in this country who are innocent and killed is an incredible 1 out of 9.  Throughout this horrendous real life story, the callousness of the Prosecutor and Sheriff was hard to watch. All they cared about was killing an innocent man to protect their reputations and careers, despite the huge holes with all the evidence uncovered during the trial and despite the fact that an innocent man was about to be killed in an electric chair.

The acting throughout this movie is outstanding, including Brie Larson, who plays the legal aid to Stevenson, Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillan and Micheal B. Jordan as Bryan Stevenson. This film is a must see for everyone, if for no other reason than to experience the overwhelming disbelief that the events of this story could ever have happened in this country, at any time. McMillan spent 6 years on death row even though never in his life was he in the town where the murder of a young white woman happened. So many other poor people, are thrown into jail just because they are poor and black and the public defenders are more interested in expediency than defending anyone who might in fact be innocent. Even after overwhelming evidence was uncovered to free McMillan, a corrupt judge decided to keep him on death row, and for me this was one of the most outrageous events in this story. During one of the last trials in this film, Stevenson said that justice in this country must exist for all of us, not just the rich, the most important message in this great movie.

Bryan Stevenson is a great lawyer and human being, who has dedicated his entire career to helping the poor escape the horrendous legal injustice that exists in this country. His organization “The Equal Justice Initiative” is a non profit organization that helps falsely convicted and condemned poor people who don’t have the means to defend themselves.  His organization has saved 140 innocent people from being put to death, while freeing many more innocent people from prison. Stevenson’s has also written a book about his legal career, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

Surprisingly this movie has only received ratings that are only in the low 80% range. My rating is a solid 95% for the story, the acting and the importance of this movie. I highly recommend Just Mercy as one of the best pictures about the legal system in this country that I have ever seen.