Reviewed By Linda Marric
As courtroom dramas go, you can’t do much better than Reginald Hudlin's brilliantly understated new feature film Marshall. This mid-budget surprise hit is everything you would want from the genre and much more; and the fact that it is based on a true story makes it all the more gripping. Chartering an early case in legendary civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall’s career, the film does a commendable job in reacquainting those of us who were less familiar with the man and his tireless fight against institutional racism against black people in the American justice system.
It’s 1941 and Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) is travelling the country on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) helping people he feels have been wronged by racist judges and mostly white juries. Having been informed of a case against black chauffeur Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) who has been accused of raping his white employer, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), Marshall takes on the man’s case in the hope of proving his client innocent. Marshall's attempt to fight for his client is thwarted by Judge Colin Foster (James Cromwell) who refuses to acknowledge the lawyer as a bonafide United States attorney, leaving him having to turn the case over to bright, yet shaky Jewish lawyer Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad).
The rest of the story follows a fairly conventional courtroom drama trajectory as Marshall and Friedman have to face obstacle after obstacle in the quest for the truth. Boseman does an excellent job as Marshall, his self-assured and proud demeanour go a long way into making him one of the most watchable actors of his generation. While Gad is genuinely likeable as Freindman.
Making a parallel between what was happening in Europe at the time and the inherent racism of the judicial system in pre civil rights America, Hudlin manages to offer a sobering, yet entertaining narrative. Hudson is brilliant as Eleanor Strubing and looks every bit like the stars of the 40s she attempts to emulate.
On the whole, Marshall manages to entertain, inform and even make a much wider point about equality. Set against the Trump presidency and the current climate of racist sentiment, Marshall manages to be more of its time than one might think. A genuinely thrilling and beautifully acted piece of filmmaking
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Writers: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Koskoff
Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson