‘Just Mercy’ does Bryan Stevenson Justice


Michael B. Jordan (left) and Jamie Fox (right) in ‘Just Mercy’

Kevin Duffy, Writer

In a political climate so polarized as our’s often is, Just Mercy is a fantastic and moving movie that reminds us that institutional racism is not just something that exists in our history textbooks. The movie is an adaptation of Bryan Stevenson’s own memoir of the same name, the very same memoir that many Loyola students became familiar with a few years back.

Bryan Stevenson, who shouldn’t need an introduction to the Loyola community, is a lawyer who specializes in criminal defense of those who are on death row. As both the book and movie make clear, Stevenson had his pick of much more lucrative jobs after graduating from Harvard. Instead, he chose to go to Alabama where he would work with falsely convicted death row inmates.

You would be hard-pressed to find another movie that touches on so many relevant topics that for so many of us, are hard to talk about. Race, class, criminal justice, children’s rights, and mental health are just a few of the smorgasbord of subjects thrown into your face when watching Just Mercy.

The cast consisted of some high profile Hollywood names like Michael B. Jordan (Bryan Stevenson), Jamie Foxx (Walter McMillian) and Brie Larson (Eva Ansley). All of them performed their roles impeccably. As strange as it is at first to see Jamie Foxx’s very recognizable face in the position of wrongly-convicted death row inmate, Walter McMillian, Foxx does an amazing job of taking over that role.

Walter McMillian was one of Bryan Stevenson’s first and most memorable cases. McMillian was sentenced to death in 1987 over the infamous murder of an 18 year old girl, despite a litany of evidence to support his innocence. Not to mention that the only testimony against McMillian came from another criminal who had a motive to lie. 

Just Mercy follows the journey of Bryan Stevenson to give McMillian justice, by way of navigating legal and political labyrinths for years. The movie serves as a slap in the face to remind the viewing audience of how deeply flawed our criminal justice system can be, especially in areas where the deep scars of institutional racism have yet to heal. 

You will find yourself on the edge of your seat rooting for Walter and Bryan. It’s rare that I watch a movie and feel a sense of true anger and frustration on behalf of the protagonist when he/she encounters a roadblock, however, this was that movie.

Just Mercy has earned the title “critically acclaimed” as many critics have echoed a similar sentiment. The movie earned a fresh 83% on rotten tomatoes. It is a must see, especially for those in the Loyola community who were here to read the book and see Bryan Stevenson speak in person. 10/10.