In theaters this week from director Reginald Hudlin and Open Road Films is a case that would bring a name to life with “Marshall.”
Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) is a graduate of Howard University and now a lawyer with the NAACP who takes cases to help those who need it the most. One such case takes him to Connecticut to defend Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), an African American who is accused of raping Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson) — a white woman.
Not a lawyer in the state, Marshall must work with Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a Jewish attorney who isn’t happy to be a part of the case. Trying to make introductions and slowly slip away, Judge Foster (James Cromwell) isn’t about to let that happen.
Prosecutor Loren Willis (Dan Stevens) is satisfied when Judge Foster allows Marshall to stay but he isn’t allowed to cross-examine witnesses or basically do anything inside the courtroom. Marshall is furious and has no choice but to make sure that Friedman stays with him on the case.
As each witness comes to the stand, it becomes clear that Spell might not have been honest about everything with Marshall. Now he must work with Friedman on how to present the case and not let anything get in the way of securing Spell’s freedom.
Neither of them could have known what they would discover and how it would end!
Boseman as Marshall gives the audience the angrier side of Thurgood Marshall. From the moment his character is up on the screen it is easy to see he isn’t going down without a fight — on anything. Trying to keep his cool, Boseman spends a lot time pursing his lips and squinting at the judge but once of the courtroom makes it clear he has a lot to say. Unfortunately the anger is aimed at Friedman who takes the lumps quietly.
Gad as Friedman is a lawyer who just wants to take the simple town cases and enjoy his career. When Marshall comes to town, a sense of fear starts to take over as his family becomes a target for those upset with his new partner’s attitude. At one point he makes it clear that he and his family still have to live in the town once Marshall takes off for his next case elsewhere. Is does take time for Friedman/Gad finds the fighting lawyer in him!
Brown as Spell is a man in a situation that doesn’t have an easy way out. He sticks to his story and clearly has no animosity towards the woman who is accusing him. As the trial gets further and further along, it becomes clear that the truth might not be that easy to tell. Brown is coming off a high with the successful television series “This is Us,” of which I am a huge fan, and it’s nice to see him take on the bigger screen.
Hudson as Strubing is a very beautiful woman who is also in a situation that has no good ending. The questions are harsh and her story is uncomfortable at a time in the country when a jury is unforgiving of such a crime. Stevens as Willis takes great pleasure in making sure Marshall stays quiet and knows that his case is not only a strong one but can only have one outcome.
Cromwell as Judge Foster is not a man to be trifled with in the slightest. He makes it clear before a jury even sets food in his courtroom that Marshall is under a gag order. He watches every move Marshall makes and doesn’t allow for any wiggle room — period.
Other cast include Keesha Sharp as Buster Marshall, Roger Guenveur Smith as Walter White, Derrick Baskin as Ted Lancaster, Barret Doss as Bertha Lancaster, John Magaro as Irwin Freidman, Ahna O’Reilly as Mrs. Richmond, and Jussie Smollett as Langston Hughes.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “Marshall” three tubs of popcorn out of five. I know, I’m going to get grief for this but here is my problem with the film. First, out of all the cases that Thurgood Marshall was a part of and made history with, this is the story the filmmakers chose to tell? Really? Not one other case stood out and made a greater impact worth telling on film? That was disappointing to me.
This is supposed to be a film about Thurgood Marshall yet I found the journey of Gad’s character of Friedman more compelling. Here is a Jewish lawyer who wanted to fly under the legal radar and completely happy doing so until he is pushed into a situation where he excels! He comes out of a shell and lets Marshall know that he understands how it feels to be called derogatory names and have stereotypes thrown at him. I am all for that storyline but isn’t this a movie about Marshall?
I wish I understood Marshall’s life more in the film instead of the bits and pieces thrown that flash by so fast. The relationship with his wife is another story that just seemed odd, thrown in quick and ripped away and on to the next scene. The quick flashes of relationships with Langston Hughes or the Lancaster family and I’m still not sure if they had a purpose and I just missing it.
I read a lot about Thurgood Marshall over the years and his career is remarkable leading to becoming the first African American Supreme Court Justice. His cases are stellar and his career a brilliant one and I’d rather read a good book about his life than see a film that misses the mark. That’s just my opinion folks!
In the end — his name means justice!