Sarah Knight Adamson is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and a voting member for the Critics Choice Awards for Movies.

Sarah Knight Adamson and Jessica Aymond are both Members of the Chicago Film Critics Association

Film Rating Code:

★★★★ Outstanding Film- Run, don’t walk to the nearest movie theater.

★★★½ Excellent Film- Highly recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★★ Very Good Film- Recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★½ Good Film- Wait for the DVD, the film is still worth viewing.

★★ Wait for the DVD and proceed with caution.

★½ Wait for the DVD the film has major problems in most areas.

★ Can’t recommend the film.

Marshall (PG-13) ★★★

Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown and James Cromwell star in “Marshall.” Photo Credit: Open Road Films.

Marshall: Educational & Entertaining

Fast-rising actor, Chadwick Boseman (Captain America: Civil War, 2017), sure has his historical portrayals down. After playing baseball great, Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013) and musician James Brown in Get on Up (2014), he takes on the role of the first NAACP lawyer and African-American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. Not surprisingly, he is naturally convincing in this role as well.

In the historical drama, Marshall, directed by Reginal Hudlin and written by father-son team Michael and Jacob Koskoff, the plot centers on the true story of the 1941 courtroom drama that is not widely known, but proved to be incredibly influential in the legal world during such a segregated time in society. Marshall, the thirty-three-year-old lawyer, fights to defend Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown, This is Us, 2017), an African-American chauffer who is accused of raping his employer’s wife, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson, Deepwater Horizon, 2016). Given Strubing’s high social standing in a conservative Connecticut community, the case quickly grows into a tabloid sensation and eventually increases tensions towards the end of the Jim Crow era.

Marshall’s relatively unfamiliar story puts director Hudlin at an advantage as he can keep most viewers in suspense among the twists and turns of the trial itself, without having to do anything extraordinary. Hudlin’s directing style is less stylish and more straightforward, which could bore some audiences, but entertain those thirsty for a heavy historical drama. While Marshall is well-told, I kept waiting for the film to build up and eventually match its powerful historical significance, but it falls just short.

Boseman’s performance is prominent, but Hudson doesn’t receive enough face time to contribute. Boseman’s eventual partner, Samuel Freidman (Josh Gad, Beauty and the Beast, 2017), a local insurance lawyer is a great foil as he is a straight-edged, mild-mannered, by-the-book lad who hates ruffling any feathers, especially when his professional reputation is at stake. In fact, Gad’s character could be seen as so uptight that his banter with Boseman provides necessary comic relief. Their chemistry keeps the film from going too far down a heavy melodramatic lane. While the film centers on Thurgood Marshall, Gad gets just as much screen time, as he struggles with his identity as both a white and Jewish man. Perhaps both of their insecurities and contrasting backgrounds in such a conservative city are what help bring them together forming more than a partnership, but a supportive friendship.

It’s worth noting some of the harsher realities of this film as it doesn’t paint everyone in an angelic light. Throughout the film, audiences will witness racial discrimination and harassment. In fact, one scene is specifically shot around ‘white only’ water fountains to remind audiences what minorities were up against. In that same vein, Marshall isn’t depicted as a perfect super hero, or role model through the film’s entirety, either. He’s humanized with character flaws, like in a bar scene where he alluded to the fact that he may be unfaithful to his wife.

Despite the solid performances by Bosman and Gad and the impactful storyline itself, Marshall might not win the unanimous vote by a jury. Consider renting it.

Bottom Line: While Marshall is well-told, I kept waiting for the film to build up and eventually match its powerful historical significance, but it falls just short. Regardless, Chadwick Boseman’s multi-layered portrayal of Marshall makes the film watch-worthy enough.

Credits: Directed by Reginald Hudlin; Written by Jacob Koskoff & Michael Koskoff

Cast: Chadwick Boseman (Thurgood Marshall), Josh Gad (Sam Freidman), Dan Stevens (Loren Willis), Sterling K. Brown (Joseph Spell), Kate Hudson (Eleanor Strubing), James Cromwell (Judge Foster)

Studio: Open Road Films

Running Time: 118 minutes

Jessica DeLong © October 13, 2017

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

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