In Theatres: 
Oct 13, 2017
Running Time: 
118 minutes

As a lawyer who successfully argued for the integration of schools in Brown v. Board of Education and who also became the first African-American Supreme Court Justice there could be dozens of films about Thurgood Marshall and that would still on scratch the surface on the man’s spectacular life and career. Marshall forgoes telling a familiar story and instead centers around a single court case from early on in his career as a roaming lawyer for the NAACP. While still captivating, the film slightly falters as it struggles with who should be the focus.


Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) has spent his young law career with the NAACP defending black people who have been wrongfully arrested, hoping to give them a fair chance in an otherwise unfair society. His latest court case takes him to Bridgeport, Connecticut to help defend Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) who has been accused of raping the woman he works for, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson). He partners with a local insurance lawyer, Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), who has never tried a criminal case before nonetheless one that is garnering this much attention. It’s an uphill battle, but one that Marshall has no intent on giving up on.


What I like about Marshall is that the film focuses on a singular event and doesn’t try to cover too much by hitting all the important milestones across Thurgood Marshall’s impressive career. The entirety of Spell’s case is shown as Marshall struggles to deal with a corrupt system and the repercussions from a community that mostly still believes white people to be better than black people. Much of the story also focuses on Sam Friedman and him dealing with the backlash of a white man defending a black man.  As good as Josh Gad is in the role, it seems a little strange for a film titled Marshall to devote so much of its story around Friedman. There are two different stories being cramped into a single film.


That being said, both Chadwick Boseman and Josh Gad deliver outstanding performances. Boseman has a charisma and passion on screen that leads every scene he’s in. We’re still seeing a young Thurgood, but everything that would make him into the Supreme Court Justice he would become is all there. This is the fourth time Boseman has played a real life person on screen, and he absolutely nails the role. Gad brings a more lighthearted presence to the screen, and it works well with Boseman’s more serious demeanor.


Marshall is a solid courtroom drama with some great performances from its cast. As a biopic on Thurgood Marshall, however, I feel like it could have used a stronger focus.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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