Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


2 Comments

My Review of JUST MERCY

Just Mercy, rated PG-13
****

Just Mercy is a powerful and emotional film about the work of Bryan Stevenson, based on his book “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption”.  (I would highly recommend the book. Here is my review).
The film is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12, The Glass Castle), who also wrote the film with Andrew Lanham (The Glass Castle, The Shack), based on Stevenson’s book.
Emmy nominee Michael B. Jordan (Fahrenheit 451, Black Panther, Fruitvale Station), portrays Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who has just graduated from Harvard Law School. Rather than taking a position with a large law firm, which is what his mother would have wanted, he has a desire to help the poor. He moves to Alabama in 1988 to start the Equal Justice Initiative, where he works with local advocate Eva Ansley, played by Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room, Captain Marvel, The Glass Castle, Short Term 12) in a relatively small role. Stevenson visits the Holman State Prison in Monroeville, Alabama, the home of Harper Lee, author of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”. He meets six men on death row, one of whom is Walter “Johnny D” McMillian, played by Oscar winner Jamie Foxx (Ray, Collateral).  He was convicted of murdering a young white woman, even though there were two dozen witnesses who indicate that they were with him, or saw him, during the time of the murder, and thus he could not have been the killer. But Walter was found guilty by a jury of 11 white men and one black man, based on the testimony of convicted criminal Ralph Myers, played by Tim Blake Nelson (O, Brother, Where Art Thou?). Stevenson is interested in helping McMillian, but Walter is suspicious of lawyers who take the money his family pays them and are never seen again. Stevenson will have to first of all, win over Walter as well as his family. Then, he will have to work through the systemic racism and corruption he encounters in law enforcement and the justice system in Monroe County.
In the prison cells on either side of Walter on Death Row are Anthony Ray Hinton, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) and Herbert Richardson, played by Rob Morgan (Mudbound). Note: Hinton has written an excellent book “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row”. Here is my review).
The film includes a significant amount of Christian content (prayer, a church scene, hymns). Themes in the film include injustice, racism, faith and faithfulness, corruption and mercy. Content concerns include some adult language, including language of a racist nature. The music in the film by Joel P. West (Short Term 12), is effective. The film features strong performances by Foxx and Jordan. The film moves along relatively slowly and is dialogue based, but that is not a criticism.
Just Mercy is a powerful film based on the true-life story of Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who specializes in defending people on Death Row. The film is emotional and at times heart breaking. This is an important film that you need to see.


Leave a comment

My Review of Baby Driver

Baby Driver, rated R 
***

Baby Driver is a creative, high energy and exciting summer film that has some content issues.
This film, which takes its name from the catchy 1970 Simon and Garfunkel song and is set in Atlanta, is directed and written by Edgar Wright (Ant-Man). It features a strong cast, including Oscar winners Kevin Spacey (American Beauty and The Usual Suspects) and Jamie Foxx (Ray). This is one of the highest rated major films of the year with an impressive 97 rating from critics on RottenTomatoes.com.
Baby is played by Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our StarsDivergent). He was in a bad car accident as a child, in which his parents were killed. He now lives with his foster father, Joseph (CJ Jones), who is deaf. The car accident left Baby with continuous ringing in his ears. He almost always is listening to music to drown out the tinnitus. In fact, how director Wright uses music is an important part of this film, synchronizing the action of the film with the music.
We are told that Baby had stolen one of Doc’s (Kevin Spacey) Mercedes. Doc is a mastermind thief. He is having Baby pay off his debt by serving as his getaway driver on his jobs. And make no mistake about it – Baby can drive, and we see plenty of his driving through the streets of Atlanta in the film.
Baby has one more job to work for Doc before his debt is paid off. He plans to end his work with Doc at that time. He meets a waitress named Debora (Lily James, Cinderella) and they plan to start a new life together, away from crime.
For Baby’s last job Doc hires an ex-con, Bats (Jamie Foxx), who doesn’t trust Baby. Bats joins married couple Buddy (Jon Hamm, Mad Men) and Darling (Eliza Gonzalez) as part of the team.
I enjoyed the first half (four stars) of the film better. It was more creative. We get to see Baby’s relationship with Joe, dancing to music, etc. The latter half (two stars) descended into more pedestrian car chases and gun fights.
As far as content issues, the film contains a significant amount of adult language, including the abuse of God’s name, and strong violence (gunfights and car chases). Those concerns may keep many from this well-acted and directed film.