Marshall

"Errr, my hat is nicer than yours!"
Verdict: 
7/10 – Marshall retells an important court case in U.S. history in a simple yet engaging way.
Release Date: 
Friday, October 20, 2017
Written by: 

Marshall tells of a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he takes on a career-defining case.

7

A biographical legal drama, Marshall retells a milestone court case overlooked by time.

Directed by Reginald Hudlin, the film shines a spotlight on Thurgood Marshall, the U.S. lawyer who successfully argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including Brown v Board of Education, which outlawed racial segregation in schools in 1954.

While Marshall would later become the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, the new film focuses on one of the first cases of his career, a 1941 trial in which wealthy white woman Eleanor Strubing accused her black chauffeur, Joseph Spell, of raping and attempting to kill her by pushing her off a bridge.

While Spell (Sterling K. Brown) had confessed to the alleged crime, the racist and prejudiced reactions to the case caught the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who engaged Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) to represent him in the Connecticut-based trial.

Once the young lawyer has made it clear to Spell that he doesn't represent guilty people, Marshall is forced to link up with local Jewish insurance attorney Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), as the presiding Judge Foster (James Cromwell) would only allow Marshall to be part of the legal team if he refrained from presenting arguments.

At first, Friedman simply acts as Marshall's mouthpiece, as he feels overwhelmed by the material and concerned about protecting his own reputation.

However, the pair are soon able to draw convincing testimony from witnesses and experts - until they sniff out some inconsistencies once Spell and Strubing (Kate Hudson) each take to the stand - and it becomes apparent that someone isn't telling the full truth.

While the conclusion to the narratives draws to a nail-biting crescendo, it is the various plot threads that are the really enlightening part of the movie, with Hudlin exploring topics such as racial segregation, women's rights, class systems, fear and duty.

Marshall marks Boseman's third biopic in recent years, with him having previously shone as Jackie Robinson in 42 and as James Brown in Get on Up.

The actor brings confidence and gravitas to the courtroom scenes, while also evoking emotion when it comes to his complicated personal life.

In contrast to the serious Marshall, Gad brings a touch of comedy to proceedings, though also conveys a diplomatic side and shows empathy to his fellow lawyer's cause, especially as it is revealed that he is a victim of anti-Semitic behaviour.

The supporting cast pull their weight as well, with Hudson managing to pull off the damsel in distress act, and Brown transforming into the soft-spoken Spell.

British actor Dan Stevens effectively pulls off an American accent for his turn as a smarmy opposition lawyer, while Ahna O'Reilly delivers one of the best lines of the film as stubborn juror, Mrs. Richmond.

Made with a relatively low budget, Marshall is a complicated story that is simply told - which actually allows for an engaging and edifying watch.

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