Film FestivalsMovie ReviewsTIFF 2019: Just Mercy Review

Keith NoakesSeptember 8, 201985/100
Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson
Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham
Destin Daniel Cretton
14A (Canada), PG-13 (United States)
Running Time
136 minutes
Release Date
December 25th, 2019
Overall Score
Rating Summary
Just Mercy is a powerful true-life courtroom drama that subverts the cliches thanks to a trio of strong performances from Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson with Jordan delivering his best performance yet.

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.

On paper, there’s not much that really stands out about Just Mercy. Period courtroom dramas are a dime a dozen and for the most part, this film didn’t bring anything new to the table but this didn’t make it any less impactful to watch. Though the film may not be overly subtle with its message, this did not make it any less timely and/or important, currently living in racially-charged times. Based on the book of the same name by Bryan Stevenson, the film follows Stevenson (Jordan), a young Harvard-educated lawyer who simply wanted to help the less fortunate. To do so, he moved to a divided rural Alabama town to start a government-funded legal aid service to assist death row inmates facing execution.

Suffice it to say that Stevenson’s transition to Alabama wasn’t exactly a seamless one but he wasn’t going to give up. The broken and arguably corrupt justice system that reigned over the south disproportionately targeted African-Americans who made up the majority of death row with many convicted of crimes which they did not commit. Things seemed hopeless long before Stevenson showed up, however, he continued to fight. One particular client that had an impact on him was that of Walter McMillian (Foxx), a man convicted of murder in the death of a young woman and put on death row under very questionable circumstances. Just Mercy was an emotional and often uncomfortable watch as the sad truth behind what happened to McMillian and his fellow death row inmates came to life.

While the outcome wasn’t in question, this didn’t make Just Mercy any less powerful. The film may not have been the most original but it still had its fair share of bait-y moments that will surely place the film in the awards conversation. The best part of the film was Jordan who carried the film with an understated performance as Stevenson. Meanwhile, Foxx will probably get more attention for his performance as McMillian as his character arc featured all the right elements. Brie Larson was solid in a smaller supporting role as Eva Ansley, Stevenson’s partner.

In the end, Just Mercy may not be overly new but it is still has something important to say and the performances make it well-worth the watch.

*still courtesy of Warner Bros.*

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