Director Destin Daniel Cretton’s biographical drama “Just Mercy” will mark Michael B. Jordan’s much-anticipated next appearance on the big screen after a banner 2018 that saw him star in two of the year’s biggest films: “Black Panther” and “Creed II.” A likely awards season contender for Warner Bros., “Just Mercy” will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this month.
Based on the award-winning nonfiction bestseller by lawyer and social-justice activist Bryan Stevenson, the powerful and thought-provoking true story follows young lawyer Stevenson and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Stevenson passed over cushy, lucrative jobs to become an Alabama defense attorney, taking on cases of those wrongly condemned, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley. One of his first, and most incendiary cases is that of Walter McMillian, who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old white woman, despite overwhelming evidence proving his innocence. In the years that follow, Stevenson becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings, and overt and unabashed racism, as he fights for McMillian, and others like him, with the odds — and the system — stacked against them.
Jordan is, of course, playing Stevenson, and he’s surrounded by talent, including Oscar winners Jamie Foxx (as McMillian) and Brie Larson (as Ansley, reuniting with her “Short Term 12” director Cretton). Rounding out the cast are O’Shea Jackson, Jr. as Anthony Ray Hinton, another wrongly convicted death row inmate whose cause is taken up by Bryan; Rob Morgan as Herbert Richardson, who also sits on death row awaiting his fate; and Tim Blake Nelson as Ralph Myers, whose pivotal testimony against Walter McMillian is called into question.
Cretton directs from a screenplay he co-wrote with Andrew Lanham (“The Glass Castle”), based on Stevenson’s book “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.” Published in 2014, the book spent more than 118 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List, and won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and an NAACP Image Award.
Shot almost entirely on location in and around Atlanta, Georgia, with a few scenes also filmed in Montgomery, Alabama, “Just Mercy” is produced by two-time Oscar nominee Gil Netter (“Life of Pi,” “The Blind Side”) and Asher Goldstein (“Short Term 12”), with Mike Drake, Michael B. Jordan, Bryan Stevenson, Gabriel Hammond, Daniel Hammond, and Niija Kuykendall serving as executive producers.
“Some films have the depth, grace, and emotional power to feel like classics from the very first viewing. ‘Just Mercy’ is that film,” TIFF said.
The film is scheduled for release on December 25, 2019, via Warner Bros. Pictures.
Check out the first trailer: