'Marshall': A Historical Film Has Never Been More Relevant (Or Amazing)

If you grew up in the United States, you more than likely recognize the name Thurgood Marshall, and if you don’t, you should seriously consider the legitimacy of your education. Thurgood Marshall is best known as the lawyer that won Brown v. Board of Education, desegregating schools across the nation, as well as becoming the first African American Supreme Court Justice. The film, Marshall, decides to take audiences back to the legend’s days as a young man in the year 1940 and exposes them to Marshall, off his pedestal, and shows what he was like as a regular, working man as he travels the country representing those who are falsely accused simply because of the color of their skin.

As the sole lawyer on the payroll for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, we meet Thurgood Marshall just as he receives a case in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where a black man named Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) is accused of sexually assaulting and attempting to kill his white woman boss, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson). Despite being in the northern part of the country, racism still rears its ugly head and the judge presiding over the case orders that Marshall is not allowed speak in the courtroom, resulting in the local council member, a Jewish lawyer named Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), to take over the case despite his lack of experience with criminal cases. This unexpected duo of the strong, confident black man and the timid but intelligent Jewish man now must work together to fight injustice both against themselves and against their client.

Both leading men play their roles spectacularly, but I must note Chadwick Boseman first. Most probably know Boseman as the Marvel superhero Black Panther, but he has played several other prominent African-American figures in biopics such as James Brown and Jackie Robinson. Just as with those roles, Boseman does an amazing job of bringing Thurgood Marshall to life and not just seem like an old historical figure. Thurgood is a witty, brash, and confident man who has a ton of swagger; as I was watching I couldn’t quite decide if I wanted to be him, be friends with him, or marry the man. Even when he is in the background of the scene (i.e. most of the courthouse scenes), your eyes always found him. He did not need words to give a powerful and lasting performance, and that is a testament to how great of an actor Boseman really is.

Courtsey: IMDb (Josh Gad and Chadwick Boseman)

While the movie is called Marshall, the character that impacted me the most was Josh Gad as Sam Friedman. As a Jewish woman, I’m not used to a lot of Jewish representation in film and when there is a Jewish identifying character, their religion is not normally that prominent; it’s mostly their name and appearance that give their Judaism any voice. But not in this movie. In this film, we get to see Sam as a practicing Jewish man: he and his family go to temple, he and his wife speak Hebrew to each other in the household, and while those things may not seem that important to some, it almost made me tear up in theaters. It was amazing to see a practicing Jewish man and his family going through their lives and have be just as normal as the average going to church scene that many movies have. Gad does an excellent job playing Sam as well, easily navigating the arc of the timid insurance lawyer just trying to keep a low profile and fit into the neighborhood’s paradigm to a strong, outspoken defense lawyer who realizes that ignoring injustice and prejudice does not mean that it is not there.

Marshall is genuinely one of the best movies I have seen to date. With an impressive cast, a fun and at some points stressful plot, this whodunit masked as a biopic is not only entertaining and worth your while in terms of buying a ticket, but it is so very important. Not only do you get to learn some history you may not have known before, the issues played out in the film regarding racism, prejudice, and injustice mirror a lot of what is happening in society today. If you have a free couple of hours, do yourself a favor and go see this beautiful and empowering film.

Final Grade: A+