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Just Mercy

Just, wow.

I didn’t watch the trailers for the film: knowing Michael B Jordan was in it was enough of a reason for me to want to see it. Learning that it was about someone wrongly being on death row meant I would also be interested in the subject. And the fact that Mum wanted to see it too meant I didn’t have to go alone.

In many ways the plot of Just Mercy was what I expected: the main characters meeting and getting to know each other, a bit of digging to find out what went wrong, and scenes in court to set it all right. Some of this didn’t have as much weight as I expected though. There was much less time spent in court than I expected, and the ‘speeches’ weren’t as powerful as you come to expect from watching lots of Law & Order and The Good Wife.

I was amazed at how quickly the time passed. About 5 minutes from the end, I thought, “this can’t be the end, there’s still loads of time to go”, and then it finished. Although there are a few captioned scenes interspersed with the credits, which are worth sticking around for.

There were bits that felt unresolved, namely, the reason that Walter McMillian was charged/framed when there was no evidence; the prison guard who was softening; and obviously the murder itself. But as the story is from the perspective of Bryan Stevenson, I suppose it makes sense that he wouldn’t know more about these things. I also haven’t read the book so I don’t know how true it is, and how much poetic licence has been used.

What surprised me most though was that the film was about more than Walter McMillian, and this is the reason it was such a good film. In fact, as good as Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx were, the story was completely stolen by Rob Morgan, playing Herbert Richardson. It was heartbreaking but handled so well. His story is the reason I cried so much during the film, on the way home, and every time I have thought about it since.

As we were leaving, I said that the scary thing about the film is that Walter is in the minority because he was exonerated, not because he was falsely accused and jailed. Listening to the Undisclosed podcast has left me with little faith in the justice system, especially where the death penalty is concerned.

More than anything, the film has made me question what right I have to squander my skills, intelligence and time when there is such injustice in the world. To look at my CV you might say that I do help people and tackle injustice in small ways; but it doesn’t feel like that from where I sit. It feels like a waste; like too much time spent on nonsense and almost no time making a difference to anyone.

Activism Film Justice

The Most Important Film of 2010?

John Pilger’s latest film, The War You Don’t See, was not all new to me. I’m currently reading a book about ‘churnalism’, so the idea of embedding journalists so they tell the ‘official’ story rather than the truth is not something new. It was interesting to hear the journalists and former officials recant their reports though.

Some news editors were made uncomfortable and quite honestly came up with some lousy answers: “it’s not our job to call officials liars”; “it’s our job to inform the public and let them make their own minds up”. Really? I thought it was your job to investigate what you’ve been told. And how can a public be informed enough to make up it’s mind with such an unbalanced report?

One of the most sickening moments of the film was Andrew Marr’s interview with Tony Blair. That he was allowed to go on air to promote his book was bad enough. That he used that time to warmonger once again was an atrocity. Andrew Marr and the BBC should be ashamed that they allowed him to go on, without even questioning his claims or the actions he was recommending.

The second, and certainly most sickening part, was something that I think came from wikileaks. It was an official video of American soldiers shooting Iraqis and reporters in the street. As far as I can tell they were long range shots. You can hear the soldiers talking to each other over the video. After they shot the eight people on the street, a van pulled up to try to find survivors. The van was shot at. The soldiers were very pleased with their work. When the troops on the ground arrived, one of the soldiers found two children, injured but alive, in the van. He got them out and wanted them to be taken to the military hospital. Over the soldiers’ radio, first you hear that it’s their fault for bringing kids into the area, and then that they would be taken to a local hospital. His CO told him to get back to his job.

I hate that people in power can get away with saying that this is taking place for the sake of national interest. I hate that people believe it to be true. I hate that officials are able to talk about the dangers of terrorists when all we’re doing is creating a new generation of them.

I was ‘got at’ in the pub the other night, I think because a couple of jaded military guys thought I was naive (not 100% sure – it was a bit of a strange ‘debate’). I’m not naive. I’m hopeful. I might not know all the details of the terrible things that are done, but I don’t believe it’s for our good. But if I don’t have faith that it can change, then really, what’s the point? It’s hard but necessary to have hope that things will get better.


Scott Pilgrim vs The World

What a breath of fresh air!

I’ve been struggling with comedies lately: everything seems to be following the Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughan, Will Ferrell vein, and I just don’t find them funny. I enjoyed The Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball and 40 Year Old Virgin when I first watched them, but there isn’t anything to make me go back and watch them again and again. And I have no idea what the fuss about The Hangover was all about. I know they keep getting made because they sell, but how many times do we have to hear the same jokes in a slightly different way? I don’t find someone saying ‘suck my dick’ as trash talk funny; but then to have to sit through it being said several more times, using slightly different words? And fat jokes. Haven’t we had enough of them too?

But Scott Pilgrim is fantastic. It’s original, off the wall, and will surely be a cult classic. The humour is a mix of quirky and sweet. Some of the jokes might not be new, but the delivery is brilliant. People might struggle with it because it is set in the present day but is completely unrealistic. I’ve told all my friends who would probably think that way to just go with it.

A woman in the row in front in the cinema stood up at the end and said, “Well that was the shittest film I’ve seen.” I think that made it even funnier!

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