Film: Just Mercy
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Rafe Spall, Karan Kendrick
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Rating: * * * *
The India release of Destin Daniel Cretton’s potent adaptation of the 2014 memoir by Bryan Stevenson about racism, capital punishment, activism and perseverance is timely indeed, just as Nirbhaya’s brutal rapists await execution. Lest we forget, the perverts have been found guilty unlike of the death row inmates around whom this cinematic retelling revolves, Civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson (essayed with dignity and grace by Michael B Jordan) works to free death row prisoner Walter ‘Johnny D.’ McMillian (Jamie Foxx) in Monroeville, Alabama. Despite evidence proving his innocence which was swept under the carpet, Johnny D was convicted in 1987 of the murder of 18 year old laundry worker Ronda Morrison.
Violence has been perpetrated of course, by others not Johnny and the film maker refrains from graphic depictions, choosing instead allusions via dialogue. There are several references too to Monroevlle’s most famous resident, Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird.
Harvard educated Stevenson has to put up with corrupt bigots and racists like the district attorney Tommy Chapman (Rafe Spall) but finds a helping hand in Eva Ansley (Brie Larson)with whom he sets up the Equal Justice Initiative, to serve the oppressed and the wrongly condemned.
She and other secondary characters like the principal witness, a pathetic convict named Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson, brilliant) and Johnny D’s Death Row neighbours (O'Shea Jackson Jr. and Rob Morgan) enhance the narrative into which Cretton and co- script writer Andrew Lanham weave themes of perseverance, integrity, and social justice. Just Mercy sounds a moving and poignant clarion call against the death penalty.