UK Release Date: 26th February 2018
Runtime: 116 minutes
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Writer: Michael Koskoff, Jacob Koskoff
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Sterling K Brown, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, James Cromwell
Synopsis: A civil rights lawyer travels to Connecticut, where he teams with a Jewish attorney to defend a black servant accused of raping a wealthy socialite.
It’s easy to forget, when watching him as the young king of Wakanda in Black Panther, that Chadwick Boseman is 40 years old. His ageless appearance is useful in netting a variety of parts, whether it’s as landmark superhero protagonists or, in the case of Marshall as an attorney on the cusp of becoming one of the most important and influential figures in the American civil rights movement.
Thurgood Marshall (Boseman) is sent to Connecticut as part of his role defending black people across America who are falsely accused of crimes because of their race. He is given the job of representing Joseph Spell (Sterling K Brown), who is set to face charges of rape after his socialite boss (Kate Hudson) claimed he attacked her. Marshall recruits small-time local lawyer Friedman (Josh Gad) to assist him, but ends up forced to allow Friedman to battle bigoted prosecutor Willis (Dan Stevens), when the judge rules an out of state attorney cannot represent Spell.
Marshall is a rather straightforward movie in a lot of ways. It’s an elegantly constructed courtroom drama that cleaves tightly to the conventions of that genre, with more than a little hint of To Kill a Mockingbird in the setup of its central case. However, director Reginald Hudlin delivers it in efficient and enthralling fashion, allowing the twists and turns of the proceedings to happen within the courtroom scenes themselves, which are stripped down and entirely focused on the performances.
It’s those performances that make Marshall more memorable than the average procedural. Boseman glitters with charisma as Marshall, who has a strong sense of right and wrong, while Dan Stevens is the epitome of smarmy white male privilege as the prosecutor revelling in the judge’s decision to silence Marshall and force him to the sidelines of the case. Given that sidelining, it’s Josh Gad who is handed much of the movie’s heavy lifting and he is, perhaps surprisingly, perfectly capable of rising to that. He is naturally comfortable with the comedy, but brings real steel and defiance to the dramatic scenes and sells a character with the most complete arc in the entire story.
This is almost certainly a film that will benefit from being seen on television screens now that it’s around on DVD. Like the most recent courtroom drama Roman J. Israel, Esq., there’s something about Marshall that would feel more at home in the environs of a television miniseries. However, on DVD, the movie comes together as an enjoyable and enthralling courtroom wrangle, anchored by an ensemble of very capable performers. And the best among them was Olaf from Frozen. Who’d have thought it?
Nothing on the disc I had for review.
Pop or Poop?
A surprisingly excellent dramatic performance from Josh Gad sits at the centre of Marshall, which is a straightforward procedural rather than the biopic it seemed like it would be. It is, however, an enthralling and engrossing drama with ample twists and turns that grabs the audience by the scruff of the neck and carries them with it en route to its finale. There’s a televisual feel to it all, but that is counteracted by the quality of the acting and intrigue of the narrative.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Marshall is available on DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.