Marshall (2017)

  • Time: 118 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama
  • Director: Reginald Hudlin
  • Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Dan Stevens, Kate Hudson, Keesha Sharp, Josh Gad


About a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases.


  • Marshall is a movie about a general conflict that has been part of our society for several hundred years. Even today it’s one of the major problems we have yet to solve in our country with both sides still pushing for it to be their way. The movie Marshall, doesn’t show one big major case that Thurgood Marshall won in court. It’s an early case that helped point this country in the right direction.
    It is a true story that Jacob Koskoff and Michael Koskoff have carefully fashioned into a courtroom drama that is far more than that. At the same time it doesn’t feel as if the Koskoff’s have tried to wedge in too many themes and topics. Into all of this you also see the personal lives of these people. This movie’s subjects are blended perfectly and director Reginald Hudlin handles them with just the right emphasis, pulling emotional responses where they must be to create the completed story.
    Chadwick Boseman plays Marshall as a man who sees what needs to be done and will hammer away until it’s done right. It’s no wonder this man became the first black Supreme Court Justice but it isn’t all perfection and winning. Boseman plays the scenes of Marshall’s home life with all the concern of a man who is dragged away to do bigger things while some pretty big ones are happening with his wife.
    Sam Friedman, the lawyer who actually tried the case, is played by Josh Gad and he does a great job of the emotional transitions that must be made in his character. Freidman went from insurance fraud lawyer to a major force in civil rights because of this case and Gad captures the whole journey. James Cromwell is the judge who must balance personal interests with old fashioned bigotry and still keep it a fair trial. You never quite know what Cromwell’s judge is going to do. The prosecutor, Loren Willis, is played by Dan Stevens with the perfect arrogance target waiting to be shot down. Sterling K. Brown is the defendant, Joseph Spell, and his character has the most contradictions because he knows if he says one thing he’ll go to jail for life but if he says the other he’ll be lynched even if the story takes place in Connecticut.
    Kate Hudson’s Eleanor Strubing is a lonely lady who does something without thinking and when she starts to think about it has to lie. Hudson has all the masks her character needs to convey what that character is hiding.
    Jeffrey DeMunn has a cameo as Dr. Sayer and it is nice to see someone of his caliper again. You can see the emotional shifts on his face before he says anything.
    I give Marshall 5 verdicts our of 5. It’s just about the perfect movie and one that is sure to go down as a classic.

  • Thurgood Marshall shall be remembered, amongst other things, as the Supreme Court’s first African-American justice. Before his historic appointment, Marshall was a tireless advocate for civil rights, arguing several cases before the Supreme Court, winning all but three of the 32 cases he argued before the highest court in the land.

    Marshall, which serves as an origin story for this esteemed figure, takes place in 1940 when Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) was beginning his tenure as the sole lawyer working for the NAACP. Traveling by rail all over the United States, Marshall fought for black Americans who were falsely accused of crimes they did not commit. His next case seems not especially unusual in that yet another black man has been accused by a white woman. The particulars are these: a married white woman named Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson) has accused her black chauffeur Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) of raping her and then attempting to kill her by throwing her off the side of a bridge.

    “I never touched that woman,” Spell insists upon meeting his lawyers, Marshall and Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a local insurance lawyer who finds himself Spell’s lead counsel when the judge (James Cromwell) agrees to admit Marshall but on the condition that Marshall not speak at all during the trial. Thus is one of the greatest legal minds relegated to the sidelines and thus a biopic supposedly about Thurgood Marshall is rendered as an odd couple courtroom drama. It’s a peculiar if somewhat understandable tactic for the filmmakers to take, though it does undermine its central character since Marshall essentially acts as Friedman’s mentor. The dominant arc then slightly favours Friedman over Marshall, which unintentionally dilutes both Marshall’s story as well as the race relations that underpin the narrative.

    Courtroom dramas, much to everyone’s benefit, are inherently interesting and so Marshall carries intrigue and a certain amount of urgency despite the familiarity and ordinariness of execution. There’s obviously something more between Spell and Strubing than either of them would care to admit, and it’s that something that Marshall hones in on and attempts to reveal. Both Hudson and Brown get opportunities to display solid dramatics during their individual testimonies; Gad and Boseman also deliver skill not only in their own performances but to the complex relationship between Friedman and Marshall.

    Yet…there’s something profoundly lacking in Marshall. It feels nothing more than serviceable and run-of-the-mill, qualities which in no way apply to the man to whom it pays middling homage but who most definitely merits a far more rousing biopic than this.

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