“Just Mercy” (Warner Bros.)

Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx star in a scene from the movie "Just Mercy." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/Warner Bros.)

By Catholic News Service

A Harvard educated lawyer (Michael B. Jordan) strives, with the help of a local activist (Brie Larson), to save the life of an Alabama death-row prisoner (Jamie Foxx) convicted on feeble evidence of the murder of an 18-year-old white woman. As the attorney tries to convince the key witness in the case (Tim Blake Nelson) to admit he perjured himself, the prosecutor (Rafe Spall) stands by the original verdict and the community backlash turns ugly.

Director and co-writer Destin Daniel Cretton’s adaptation of a 2014 memoir by Bryan Stevenson reaches back to events in the 1980s but also vividly demonstrates the on-going dangers posed by the application of capital punishment in a society still burdened by widespread racism. Yet this is much more than a message movie since Cretton and his script collaborator Andrew Lanham avoid caricature, showing that even some of their most misguided characters are capable of conversion. As a humane and winning study of a subject with immense real-world significance, it’s possibly acceptable for older adolescents.

Mature themes, a disturbing scene of execution, offscreen nudity in a strip search, a couple of mild oaths, a few crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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