Marshall (movie review)

So, this is obviously not the kind of thing I normally write about.

In the midst of a series of Buddhist teachings, here I am writing about a historical legal drama.

But, I was given the opportunity to screen his film before the release date (Friday 10/13), so here we are.

I first saw Chadwick Boseman when he played the Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War (by the way, my son’s favorite hero in that film.) In that film it contains an origin story for this lesser known Marvel hero. You see his father die and you see him decide to become a hero to go after his killer.

Marshall is something of an origin story too. Thurgood Marshall was the first black supreme court justice. Before that he was the lawyer who argued and won the case for the integration of schools. But this film takes place before that. It’s in 1940 and the civil rights movement is still decades away. He was a lawyer who traveled around working for the NAACP, helping people avoid getting convicted based on their race. He helps those that are fallen on hard times, for people that have no one standing up for them, he’s there.

This film centers on just one such case, but it’s a macrocosm for his career. A black chauffer (Sterling Brown) is accused of raping his employer (Kate Hudson) in Connecticut. Assisting Marshall is a local lawyer played by Josh Gad. Really this is his story too. In the beginning he just wants to be comfortable and avoid trouble. By the end he’s dedicated to fighting for social justice. Marshall inspires him and maybe that’s almost as important as helping people avoid persecution.

I think we spend a lot of time making heroes out of historical figures. Maybe Thurgood Marshall’s story is long past due. We never think of Connecticut when we think of racial tension. I think that’s important too. These kinds of stories existed everywhere. Some would say they still do.

It takes place in 1940 and that’s very clear throughout the film, but it’s also a compelling courtroom drama. With the focus on race, it vaguely reminded me of “A Time To Kill” and other dramas of that type.

My only complaint is I wanted more. I wanted to see more cases and to see him shaped into the legendary figure that he became. This is just a snapshot, a short period in his life.

I recommend it.


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