Before he stepped up to fight the good fight in Brown v. the Board of Education, the case that swiftly and effectively outlawed racial segregation in American schools and propelled him to a seat in the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall was the NAACP’s main crusader for justice. Marshall, starring the always on-point Chadwick Boseman, chronicled one of early cases in his career.
In 1941, Joseph Spell, an uneducated black man with a checkered history is accused of raping and attempting to murder Eleanor Strubing, a wealthy, educated New England socialite. The NAACP dispatches Marshall to defend Spell and shanghaies him with an insurance lawyer named Sam Friedman to advocate for their client but the court does its most to tie the two’s hands. Essentially, Marshall and Friedman must overcome their differences with each other and their limitations in the courtroom, to see that the truth is clear and that justice is done.
Upon the conclusion of the film, I found Marshall to be quite mediocre; not exactly meeting my standards in terms of entertainment and educational value but not to the point where I was bored to tears either. If anything, Chadwick Boseman and the rapport he had with his co-star Josh Gad, elevated this simple film to make it watchable from beginning to end.
I cannot give enough credit to Chadwick Boseman! The man is without a doubt building an incredible body of work as an actor and he commands the screen in Marshall! He steps into this role and delivers the right mix of confidence, fierceness, tenderness and intelligence to deliver a rock-solid leading performance.
Josh Gad is strong in his portrayal as Sam Friedman. At times he leans on his humorous side but he is also rock-solid in his supporting performance as his character reluctantly jumps on board Marshall’s crusade and the dynamic between the two characters is ultimately, Marshall’s greatest strength.
I also must credit Sterling K. Brown and Kate Hudson’s key performances for Marshall. Other than Boseman and Gad, they are the best performers in the film by far! The rest of the cast including Dan Stevens, James Cromwell, Keesha Sharp, Roger Guenver Smith, John Magaro, Jussie Smollett, Rozonda Thomas and Darrick Baskin, I don’t think they made a lasting impression as much as they should have.
Director Reginald Hudlin and the Koskoff brothers, who shaped the screenplay of the film, certainly did justice in honoring Marshall’s character by this film but I felt as though they played it safe multiple areas of the production and weighed the film down.
Newton Thomas Sigell’s cinematography was practical, Tom McArdle’s editing also practical, I didn’t think much of Marcus Miller’s music, Richard Hoover’s production design was neater than what I would expect and the costumes of Ruth E. Miller were nice enough.
Marshall, ultimately is a film where you come to watch Chadwick Boseman deliver another solid performance as another prominent African-American historical figure and it leaves you wondering what this film could be if the film was as strong as the dynamic between Boseman and Gad instead of allowing itself to showcase Boseman and Gad’s performances as its main selling point. Take away the two performers and what you are left with is not much to look at.