Just Mercy Brings International Attention to Criminal Justice Reform


Just Mercy was released internationally at the beginning of January. Since then, the film has received glowing reviews from audiences and critics  around the world, bringing international attention to racial inequality and the need for criminal justice reform. The Irish Times writes that Just Mercy is “gripping, dazzlingly acted and – yes – important drama.”

Just Mercy presents the unforgettable story of Bryan Stevenson and the case of Walter McMillian, who was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. Set nearly three decades ago, the film closely follows the racial bias and discrimination evident in Mr. McMillian’s case – two features which still characterize our modern legal system today. 

International reviews of the movie have highlighted the unreliability of the death penalty system in the United States.  An Italian news source, for example, discusses the fact that for every nine people executed in America, one person has been exonerated.  A review of the movie in Switzerland highlights how Mr. McMillian’s case is a testament to the state’s indifference to claims of innocence within the legal system, stating that “Just Mercy brilliantly exposes all the perversity of a system more inclined to perpetuate amoral mores than to do justice.”  

International media coverage has praised the film’s performances, with special focus on the portrayal of three inmates on death row, including Jamie Foxx (as Walter McMillian), Rob Morgan (as Herb Richardson) and O’Shea Jackson Jr (as Anthony Ray Hinton). GQ Middle East writes that “film’s emotional heart lies with [the] three inmates” who are “deeply affecting.”

In bringing greater awareness to America’s history of racial injustice and its legacy of enslavement, international audiences have written about the ways that presumptions of guilt assigned to African Americans and people of color have led to bias and discrimination in police and legal systems. A French news outlet applauds the way that the film “bears witness to the heavy legacy of slavery and segregationist laws in a country still plagued by the demons of its past” – which has given rise to a legal system charactertized by the politics of fear and anger.  

In addition to raising awareness about the history of racial bias and injustice in the U.S. criminal justice system, Just Mercy has also prompted meaningful conversations about confronting inequalities in the criminal justice system and human rights abroad.  

SBS NITV, a news station that serves indigenous peoples of Australia, states that “Just Mercy is a story for both nations…racism remains endemic and deeply entrenched in our criminal justice system, not unlike the U.S.” and cites that the film “is a call to action, one that Australians also cannot afford to miss.” A review of the film in the Philippines urges viewers about the need to remain vigilant about human rights issues more broadly.

In Ukraine, a publication expressed that Just Mercy should be seen by “future and current lawyers, human rights defenders, law enforcement workers and everyone who cares…. Cinema language is one of the most unique languages ​​for understanding the world, [and Just Mercy is] a much more universal movie about justice, judicial errors and prejudices.”