Directed by: Reginald Hudlin
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad & Sterling K. Brown
This film follows pioneering Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick ‘I only play real life characters’ Boseman) in his earlier years as a lawyer for the NAACP. A white socialite in Greenwich, Connecticut accuses a black man of rape and attempted murder. The NAACP believes the man, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. ‘amazing in every performance’ Brown) is innocent and sends Marshall to defend him. Marshall enlists local lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh ‘I like warm hugs’ Gad) whose previous track record involves tax or insurance cases to help him. Sam and Thurgood are then forced to work together to defend Spell.
The chemistry between Gad and Boseman drives the film. The later scenes when the pair finally have a rift that pushes them apart almost feels forced because of how well these two fit. The high stress levels of concern from Gad compared to the overt confidence portrayed by Boseman plays perfectly together. The subtle comedy actually comes more from Boseman than Gad. An array of quotable moments are evenly delivered by both men.
Gads career path has been projecting upward and this film will more than give it just a positive boost. No longer just the cuddly and funny chubby guy, he should be taken serious as an actor going forward. While Boseman is very good as Thurgood Marshall the script limits his ability to show off his range and really take the character on a journey. I was actually a little let down after going into the film ready to nominate him as a best actor candidate. On the other hand, a best supporting actor award or three needs to be presented to Sterling K. Brown. Confession time – I spent no less than half the film wondering when Brown was going to show up and what character would he be playing. Then I realized he had been on screen the whole time as Joseph Spell and I simply didn’t recognize him. No make up or movie prosthetics were used, just an 1950’s hair style. Yet his performance not only in speech but in body and facial expressions completely created a new man. It isn’t until the films end that he is allowed to deliver a few monologues and converse at length in a scene, but when he does you simply won’t forget it. I hope I’m not overselling here, but I really loved Browns performance. Kate ‘always famous’ Hudson and James ‘that’ll do pig’ Cromwell both turn in more than solid performances to round out this perfect cast.
This movie very easily could have been excruciatingly boring. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the case that gets tried and there’s no big shocking twist that comes with the investigation. The racial tension and inequalities has been more than done on film and nothing new is shown in this movie. Yet, Marshall chose to focus more on the specifics and human elements involved in this story. The scenes in the courtroom are intense and keep you interested in the action. As the case develops, along with the rapport of Marshall and Friedman, these scenes get more and more engaging. The verdict of the case almost becomes an afterthought compared to the relationship developed between Marshall and Friedman as well as the bigger picture that gets revealed through Friedmans eyes.
Only disappointment I would have is that a film named Marshall led me to believe it would be more about the entire life of Thurgood Marshall. I was kind of expecting an origin story. This movie only focuses on one case, and not even a groundbreaking one like Brown v Board of Ed or any other of his cases in the Supreme Court. The film may also be about eight minutes too long. As engaged as I was throughout I did get ready to have the case solved and verdict read a little earlier than it was.
That said, I truly enjoyed this movie. It’s no secret that the acting performances are what give this movie its life. I highly recommend seeing this movie and soon!
8.5 out of 10