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Just Mercy Movie Review: Uncomfortable Questions On Capital Punishment



Just Mercy

Starring Michael B Jordon, Jamie Fox, Brie Larson

Directed  by Destin Daniel Cretton

Rating: ** * (three  stars)

Just Mercy  is  a film that cares  about human beings  on death row. It  cares  about  justice. And  like  Portia its young  protagonist Bryan Stevenson believes  that  the quality of mercy is  not strained.

Michael Jordon who plays  the compassionate  lawyer , lending a lot more than  just a sympathetic shoulder  to  convicts  on death  row, has one  of  the kindest faces  I’ve seen on  screen. Jordon(weirdly cast  as a villain in Black Panther) looks like  a  guy who cares about injustice.His  idealism touches  our hearts in away that the rest  of the film fails  to.

For one,  the theory that  convicts  awaiting death  can be  completely blameless  victims is  more disgusting than  disturbing at a time when Nirbhaya’s  barbaric killers are  trying to wriggle their way  out  of  their death sentence.

The  wrongly convicted death-row prisoner in Just Mercy is played by the very accomplished Jamie Fox. He is a God-fearing  law-abiding family man  caught in ghastly  situation  of misjusticeperpetrated  by closet rednecks who  sneer at  our lawyer-hero  addressing him  as ‘Boy’ when he  challenges  their white supremacy.

As our hero Bryan Stevenson tries  to  extricate  Walter he also meets other  death-row inmates , at least one of them with a more interesting history and a more arresting presence(if you’ll pardon  the pun)  than Walter.

 Where this well-meaning and revealing film succeeds is  in showing the  prejudice that  exists  just under the surface  in every society.Even a hotshot Harvard  lawyer like Bryan  can’t escape the wrath  of Caucasian superiority. In  one sequence Bryan is  gleefully strip-searched  before being allowed  to visit prisoners. In another sequence his car is stopped by a posse  of aggressive  cops and he’s roughly pulled  out for phantom road violation.

Such moments accentuate  the  prejudice  and bigotry in Albama(the land of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mocking Bird,  as we are repeatedly reminded in the  film)  around the  1990s. But  has the  situation for  the  African American changed in these trying times of Trump? 

  In the way the narrative  spotlights the  perpetuity  of  prejudice Just Mercy reminded  me  of Anubhav Sinha’s Article  15. Both films  aim for a dark, meditative mood as they search for justice for the downtrodden . Michael Jordan could well be Ayushmann Khurrana in Article 15 except for his  skin pigmentation being shades darker.

Just Mercy is  sadly  neither dark  nor illuminating enough.  Its hero’s  irrefutable intrinsic idealism fails to match its calibre  of execution.

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