This feels like Oscar bait from the 1990s, and judging by last year’s Best Picture win for Green Book that could be a winning Awards Season formula (especially with its confronation of racial issues).
Just Mercy, the latest film from director Destin Daniel Cretton (whose indie breakout Short Term 12 is one of the best films of the past decade; watch it on Netflix), is about a new Harvard Law grad, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), and the true story based on the book of his landmark case.
He heads to Alabama to advocate for innocent prisoners who’ve been unjustly sentenced, and his first case is to defend Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man wrongly convicted in 1987 of the brutal murder of a teenage girl. Brie Larson (who starred in Cretton’s Short Term 12) plays local advocate Eva Ansley.
Despite having the kind of courtroom drama formula we’ve seen before (right down to the rookie lawyer challenging The System), Cretton and his cast don’t seem to pandering to the audience with the usual melodramatic tricks. Instead, the tone looks sincerely earnest, which could make this timely year-end entry about Criminal Justice Reform really resonate. (Having Academy Award winners like Larson and Foxx sure helps.)
Co-starring Tim Blake Nelson, Rob Morgan, and O’Shea Jackson Jr., Just Mercy debuts in limited Oscar-qualifying release on December 25, 2019 before opening wide on January 10, 2020.
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