Between the holidays and awards season, the end of the year is packed with must-see movies. From family-friendly franchise hits to major musicals, there’s something for everyone. For moviegoers who want to spend the holidays with a heartwarming tale of humanity and redemption, there’s JUST MERCY, a moving drama from the director of SHORT TERM 12.
JUST MERCY stars Michael B. Jordan and Brie Larson and tells the remarkable true story of lawyer Bryan Stevenson. Read on for a closer look at this new drama, and the story that inspired it.
[Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
Based on Bryan Stevenson’s autobiography of the same name, JUST MERCY follows the prominent lawyer and social justice activist in the early days of his career. After graduating from Harvard in 1985, Stevenson went to work for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Alabama, where he helped lower-income inmates on death row appeal their convictions... until Congress eliminated funding for the operation. Since Alabama was the only state that did not provide legal assistance to inmates on death row, Stevenson witnessed first-hand how crucial this service was, particularly for impoverished prisoners who could not afford representation. So the attorney launched another program in its place. He founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, which he funded with the help of a MacArthur grant.
JUST MERCY centers on one case in particular, and the profound impact it had on Stevenson’s career. The film follows Stevenson and his team at the Equal Justice Initiative as they appeal the case of Walter McMillian, a black pulpwood worker in Monroeville, Alabama who was sentenced to death row in 1988 for a murder he did not commit. Despite having multiple witnesses to confirm his alibi, including a police officer, McMillian was sentenced to life in prison. In a shocking turn of events, a judge overruled the jury’s decision and sentenced McMillian to death.
JUST MERCY brings together two major stars from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Michael B. Jordan (BLACK PANTHER) and Brie Larson (CAPTAIN MARVEL). The filmmaker behind JUST MERCY is Destin Daniel Cretton, who worked with Larson on his two previous dramas: 2017’s THE GLASS CASTLE and 2013’s SHORT TERM 12. Cretton also has a connection to Marvel: He’s set to direct SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, the first Marvel movie to feature an Asian hero in the lead role.
In JUST MERCY, Jordan plays Bryan Stevenson, with Larson taking on the fictional role of Eva Ansley, a local advocate who helps Stevenson. They’re joined by Jamie Foxx, who plays Walter McMillian, the death row inmate whose case proves life-changing for everyone involved. Rounding out this excellent ensemble are Rob Morgan (who starred in Marvel’s "Daredevil" on Netflix), Tim Blake Nelson (also appearing in this fall’s THE REPORT and "Watchmen"), Rafe Spall (JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM), and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS).
With SHORT TERM 12, Destin Daniel Cretton asserted himself as one of the most thoughtful new directors working today. That film starred Brie Larson as Grace, a supervisor at a home for troubled teens who struggles to balance her personal needs with the needs of the kids in her care. Cretton exhibited a strong sense of empathy for every character in SHORT TERM 12, and that approach makes him perfect for JUST MERCY, which demands sensitivity and understanding from both the filmmakers and the audience.
Cretton also has a knack for casting: SHORT TERM 12 featured several actors who went on to have major careers, including Larson, Lakeith Stanfield (KNIVES OUT and “Atlanta”), Kaitlyn Dever (BOOKSMART), and Rami Malek (BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY).
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.