Most of us have heard the name Thurgood Marshall at some point or another. The acclaimed attorney is most well-known for being the first African-American justice to serve in the Supreme Court and also for the landmark court case Brown v. the Board of Education. But like many of our nation’s most illustrious figures not much is really known about the man before the height of his career. That is until now.
This most recent biopic focuses on a significant trial that Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) encountered during his days as a lawyer working for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
In 1940 Connecticut a wealthy white socialite named Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson) accuses Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), her black chauffeur of raping and attempting to murder her. Believing the man is accused solely based on race, the NAACP hastily sends Attorney Marshall to represent him. Along with local lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), the two work together to uncover and expose the truth.
In an age of reboots and remakes it’s amazing to see a biopic like Marshall sprout up and provide entertainment and a history lesson all at once. Similar to the magic of Hidden Figures earlier this year, Marshall tells a little known story in a captivating way and will leave audiences questioning some of their own prejudices.
Not only does the film possess a nice blend of history and humor, it also feels like a “buddy cop” movie as the gradual friendship between Thurgood Marshall and Sam Friedman can be described as unlikely at best. They are two people from completely different worlds and what they end up realizing is that they have much more in common besides an interest in law.
Boseman brings swag and confidence to the role and portrays Marshall as a man who understands what it means to fight against injustice. Gad is likable as Friedman, an honest man who also desires justice, but is uncomfortable with a lot of attention. I was impressed because the chemistry between the two is easily one of the best aspects of Marshall. They fire on all cylinders in their individual performances, but it’s the moments when they are challenging one another that really made the most impact for me.
The acting was unsurprisingly great across the board, which is a testament to a cast filled with veterans as well as the watchful eye of a more than competent director.
The script is not to be neglected either since that is often the slipperiest part of filmmaking. I think that Marshall tells the story in a fresh and modern way that will connect with audiences. I’ve seen some accuse the film of being too “light-hearted”. I guess they would rather be depressed and wallow in sadness for 2 hours, but I personally didn’t mind the light hearted moments because we all know about the racism and injustice of the forties.
It’s not something we could ever forget and furthermore, the audience constantly saw reminders of racism and prejudice in how Judge Foster (James Cromwell) and prosecutor Loren Willis (Dan Stevens) behaved during the courtroom scenes. The way that Spell and Marshall in particular were treated was abhorrent. Spell’s arrest to begin with was incredibly shady and unjust.
If you enjoy great acting, a well-developed script and a juicy he said/she said case full of salacious details I think you will enjoy this film.
Marshall is directed by Reggie Hudlin (House Party, Boomerang) and the screenplay comes from Jacob and Michael Koskoff. It stars Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Sterling K. Brown, Dan Stevens, Roger Guenveur Smith and James Cromwell. It is currently in theaters!
What is your favorite biopic? Let me know in the comments below!