Release Date: October 13, 2017
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Writer: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Koskoff
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Sterling K. Brown, Dan Stevens, James Cromwell, Keesha Sharp, Roger Guenveur Smith, Derrick Baskin, Barret Doss, Zanete Shadwick, John Magaro, Ahna O’Reilly, Jussie Smollett, Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas, Andra Day, Jeremy Bobb, Jeffrey DeMunn, Brendan Burke, Marina Squerciati, Sophia Bush, Ed Jewett, Adriano Gatto, Perris K. Fortson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 118 minutes
Production Company: Chestnut Ridge Productions, China Wit Media, Starlight Media, Super Hero Films, Open Road Films, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Genre: Biography, Drama
Chadwick Boseman is on a role, and it doesn’t appear that he’ll be slowing down anytime soon. This is the fourth biographical figure that he’s played, and he continues to improve with each release. Those roles range from James Brown, Jackie Robinson, Floyd Little, and now of course, Thurgood Marshall. If you weren’t aware, Thurgood Marshall was a very important leader for this country, especially in the African American community. He was the first Black man to serve in the Supreme Court, and set the bar for those who followed. For such a key role, Boseman doesn’t look the part, but does present a worthy performance to fill for the late Thurgood Marshall to a level of precision that righteous men and women would be proud of. For so many achievements that Thurgood Marshall accomplished, it would be too long for a movie to list them all, and instead, this film focused on a trial in 1941 that launched Thurgood’s career to a state that will be beloved forever.
A film that doesn’t waste time throwing you right into the mix will always be appreciated, and that’s exactly what we have here. If you’re concerned that Boseman is just the same Black face to fill in another African American role, be rest assured you can put that mindset aside. Boseman isn’t just playing himself, or reading lines from a script. There’s power in his performance that speaks volumes. On screen, he portrayed a character that possessed no fear in a time of chaos when faced with adversity. He came across as a strong, educated, smooth, calculating man that does his homework, and knows exactly when to strike. I was able to relate when he was angry, and able to empathize when tragedy struck. Boseman portrayed him as a man that if he was on your side, you were forever confident that you could win. The relationship that he had with Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) was nothing short of amazing as well. The dynamics that these two had together on screen, and Gad’s performance was remarkable. Thurgood was a man that made anything out of nothing and that’s what he did working with Friedman. He was one that would receive the worst cards in the deck, but still was able to produce a royal flush which is all most could ask for.
As for the story, it was a mysterious one, as you’re playing detective with everyone else in the audience and on screen. A Black man was accused of a crime (see the movie to find out if he did it or not), who claims he was innocent, and Thurgood is coming to save the day. During the court proceedings, there were numerous flashback scenes that pulled you into the scene as if you were there yourself. The cinematography was eye catching, and it gave the scenes much more flare than the rest. They all were so convincing too, forcing you to ask yourself what really happened in the case. The film also did a phenomenal job at portraying how unjust the system was back in the 1940’s, and just how insane society was. Things that were considered legal or normal would face backlash one million times over today. So, it was a great comparison of the two times to show how much has changed in society, and how some acts of maliciousness still exist today.
A friend was supposed to see this movie with me but made an excuse at the last minute he couldn’t attend, because he wasn’t sure if he could handle the rational tension. This film is PG-13; so, it’s not too hard on any graphic or violent material. There is an excessive use of the word nigger (which of course fits the time), and Black people considered as “wild panthers,” but other than that, this is in no way Detroit or 12 Years a Slave where Black People continue to see Black People get beat. No, not at all. Surprisingly, this film did a wonderful job of balancing the seriousness of the case, the times, and the mixing in of comedic elements. It did so at all the right times, not only making this film a biographical drama, but a well-rounded comedy too. It was all in the right place at the right time. I was laughing from beginning to end at normal behaviors and reactions we see in the society every day.
This film was directed by Reginald Hudland (Boomerang), who was making a name for himself back in the 90’s and then went on to TV. I’m glad he’s back with films for this movie alone. He did a great job, and my respect level has risen in regard to his directing capabilities. There’s nothing to complain about within Marshall, and it would be hard to find any mistake if I try. This film didn’t spark an emotional response from me, and I can’t say the performances were Oscar worthy, but they were getting close to that standard. Hudland directed a well-balanced film that all audiences can enjoy, that shed light on an important figure that should be remembered until the end of time.