Entertainment Politics

Michael B. Jordan Exposes the Racist Horrors of the Deep South

TORONTOA pivotal irony, which would be a running joke if it wasnt so painful, helps to drive home the central theme of Destin Daniel Crettons Just Mercy, which had its world premiere on Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Shortly after the Harvard-trained, African-American lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) arrives in Monroeville , Alabama, to assist poor death row inmates, a well-meaning white person asks him if hes visited the Mockingbird Museum. Held up by residents as proof of the towns sympathy with the legacy of the civil rights movement, Monroevilles Old Courthouse Museum, which pays homage to the setting that inspired some of the famous scenes in Harper Lees To Kill a Mockingbird and the movie of the same name, is a local shrine. Yet while the townspeople gush over Lees novel, Stevenson becomes convinced that one of Monroevilles black citizens, Walter Johnny D McMillian (Jamie Foxx), faces execution for a crime he didnt commit.

Based on Stevensons memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Crettons film is part legal procedural and part inspirational weepie. Although the agonizing struggle to free Walter McMillian forms the films central narrative, a number of subplots reinforce the movies implicit argument: the Deep South of the late-1980s and early-1990s, when the action takes place, was nearly as racist as the Jim Crow era and, by implication, early 21st century America, north and south, has not yet resolved the racial quandaries of the 20th century.

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