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Just Mercy

Just Mercy

Just Mercy is the one to see this week. This true story stuns on many levels as it delivers the tale of a young black lawyer who becomes deeply involved in helping a black man unjustly accused of murder.

At 18, Rhonda Morrison has been shot while walking. She was white. Police listen to a white prisoner who accuses a black man of the murder. The immediate and total acceptance of the accusation is what stuns us. A white participant is believed. A black suspect is called a liar. Both a white court judge and a white witness announce that justice has been served. The suspect will die in the electric chair.

In this true story, Michael Jordan plays Bryan, the new young graduate of Harvard Law School whose deep drive is to protect innocents. He meets Jamie Foxx (Walter Mcmillian), a young black man who shares both his Harvard background and a past of singing in the choir. When Jamie is arrested and sentenced to death in Georgia, Bryan, certain of his friend’s innocence, rushes to help him. Bryan’s assistant, Brie Larson (Eva Ansley) works to help people on death row. They become partners in trying to free the innocent Jamie. That drive from Alabama to Georgia is a stunning lesson in the southern culture.

Several movies on this subject this year have been delivered by fine actors and filmmakers. The message: state sanctioned murder of black suspects is still active. Acceptance of white hatred still thrives. The theme in the black culture: “You’re guilty from the moment you’re born.”

During Jamie’s trial we are given a sharp course in the white supremacy attitudes that we so many think is over. The white judge summons white racists to testify, the courtroom spectators enjoy the spectacle, the judge takes a month to make a decision we know he has already made. Their words and actions sting.

Be sure to stay through the final credits that are interlaced with the true story. The two men remained friends. One of every nine men on death row has been proven innocent. Lawyer Bryan Stevenson has continued to work for them.

While watching the movie, I sat near a young black woman who had brought her grandmother. All of us were obviously moved by the film and I asked her if she saw it as an exaggeration. “No, not at all.” Hers was a quiet, strong confirmation that movies that expose this deep cultural problem can, when done well, become the best weaponry in highlighting the separation that has endured.

The treatment of black men – whether innocent or guilty – in this modern era is once again a surprise to so many who think all is well. This fine film delivers learning without lecture. Movies, made with honesty, can at least spread the truth of what black people are still living with across our country where many thought the job had been done. It hasn’t been done.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Just Mercy
Word Count : 492
Running Time: 2:16
Rating : PG-13
Date : February 2, 2020

This review was posted on February 2, 2020, in Drama.

1917

1917

1917 is a quality movie that led me to some dark thoughts. If the story doesn’t trigger lasting thoughts for you about men and war, then fine, just enjoy this good movie. The quality came from director Sam Mendes and the two fine actors who carry the film.

Blake (Dean Charles Chapman) is chosen to deliver a crucial message to the war front. Schofield (George MacKay) joins Blake and the entire movie unfolds as they carry the message that will, if they are successful, stop the Allies from attacking the Germans who are secretly hidden as they wait for the arrival of their enemy. 1600 men will live or die depending on their success or failure.

We follow the messengers through trenches that are littered with dead bodies, dead horses, blood-soaked dirt, and body parts. Their hideous walk is what we watch while fear grows in us that these two might not reach their goal. After an hour of watching them run, crawl, and climb in fear, a wave of anger spread through me and I ask your tolerance while I switch to talking about that.

Anger surged because the movie triggered the truth. As the two men lead us through a mass of recently destroyed bodies and equipment, the whole of it sinks into us. Here we are in yet another war like all the others that unfold when men reach an impasse. Pride kicks into leaders. War comes. We listen here to men talking and barking short orders about how to handle the German lines in the fewest of words: “Just kill them all.” When nations can’t agree, men kill.

1917 is more than a movie. It is a sharp slap at us in a time when many countries now possess the weaponry to destroy whole countries. Still, we respond to deadlock with physical force.

When the problem that confronts male leaders appears to be deadly, they usually issue the orders to respond with bombs. Physical action is the only weapon left to leaders even when it kills thousands of young soldiers. Given a suicidal order by his commanding officer, a young man replies, “Thank you, sir. Goodbye Sir.”

Think of it: our massacre of the Indians, World War I, the Korean War, Iraq. What positives were gained by those wars? With the historical perspective now available, the world is now blaming the administration in office at the time. In every one of those wars, young men who survived were affected for the rest of their lives and many never lived to go home.

During the two hours of watching destroyed towns, vehicles, and dead bodies covered in blood, we wonder how even the young survivors can re-enter their pre-war lives of families and friends who were untouched by what they experienced. Why do we allow single officers defending their superiority to make decisions that kill thousands? There might be another way. Should women make war decisions? Why not try that?

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : 1917
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 1:59
Rating : R
Date : January 26, 2020

This review was posted on January 26, 2020, in Drama, War.