By: Oberst von Berauscht –
In 1940 NAACP attorney (and future Supreme Court Justice) Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) was dispatched to Connecticut to defend the case of Joseph Seall (Sterling K. Brown). Spell was a chauffeur accused of rape by the wife of the man for whom he worked. When the Judge declined to permit out-of-state attorney Marshall to argue in court, Connecticut lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) was forced to lead the arguments, with Marshall supporting.
Marshall chooses to focus on a single event in the life of the eponymous figure; a wise decision, as it allows a deeper focus on character. Chadwick Boseman seems to be a go-to actor for historical drama these days, having recently played both Jackie Robinson and James Brown. Marshall is a step up from those by the numbers biopics, with a solid script and supporting performances from Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, and others.
Including James “crazy beard” Cromwell…
Director Reginald Hudlin keeps the film moving at a steady pace, revealing the pieces of the film’s puzzle a bit at a time like a classic courtroom drama. Hudlin’s directing background is mostly in comedy, and he does bring a touch or two of humor to keep the film’s mood even. But the humor never feels forced or overwhelms the seriousness of the situations the film’s characters get into.
Sticking to what works in typical courtroom drama, Marshall could be accused of not aspiring to anything more than being a genre picture. Indeed Marshall’s story beats are quite predictable, even to those unfamiliar with the history behind the case. However, the performances and dialogue are strong enough to keep the film from feeling dull or ordinary. Chadwick Boseman carries enough suave style to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, which counteracts most deleterious effects.
“Excuse me, 1940s White Mob, but I’m too busy swaggering”
There is a scene in the film in which Marshall sits down at a table to talk about the case with his friend Langston Hughes. This is one of those compulsory scenes in historical drama where people meet and talk about famous things happening to remind you of the year the film takes place. It seems all historical dramas have this scene, or several of them, and it always takes me out of the movie. Though thankfully it isn’t as bad as the Picasso scene in Titanic…
“That Picasso Guy? Oh, he’ll NEVER catch on!”
Marshall is a solid historically-based courtroom drama with a compelling narrative and performances.
Marshall (2017) Movie Review
Take a Drink: every time Marshall or Friedman’s name is spoken
Take a Drink: for historical African-American name-dropping
Take a Drink: whenever the Judge makes a ruling on an issue
Do a Shot: for protesters!