“Marshall”: An iconic figure deserves more


From slavery to the civil rights movement to present-day protests, race relations have always been an issue in the United States. The new film Marshall takes a look at one immensely positive figure in the struggle for racial equality and his actions that changed America.

That man was Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman). He won the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that eliminated segregated schools, and he went on to become the first African-American to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

In Marshall, we look at Thurgood's early days as a lawyer for the NAACP. Marshall traveled around the country on behalf of the organization to defend African-Americans against a system that tended to work against them. Marshall was quick and knowledgeable, and he knew how to use the laws to protect his clients.

The focus of this film is a case in Greenwich, Conn., where Marshall is to defend a black man accused of raping a well-to-do white socialite. It's simple in the state's mind -- black chauffeur Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) stands accused by his white employer Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson) of assaulting her, tossing her in a river and leaving her for dead. But nothing is so open and shut when it comes to racially motivated cases.

When Marshall arrives in town, his first question for the defendant is the obvious one -- did you do it? And when Spell's answer leaves little doubt, Marshall proceeds to offer up a defense. But there is another hurdle to overcome. Judge Foster (James Cromwell) will not let Marshall try the case and forces local attorney Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) to proceed. Friedman thought he was only there to ask that Marshall defend Spell and is none too pleased to be in the thick of things. Can justice be found for everyone in this case?

I like the fact that the film details the racial struggles that were present within the country. I love that it utilizes an iconic historical figure to show that even one person can make a difference.

Boseman is solid in his portrayal of the legendary litigator. He shows the courage of conviction needed to proceed past all of the roadblocks that were constantly placed in Marshall's way. Coupling him with Gad makes for a good representation of the actual lawyers and the situations that they dealt with.

My issue is simply this -- Marshall is more of a procedural courtroom film and less of a historical biopic. If you are looking for more of Thurgood Marshall's history, this isn't the film for you. This film is not about Marshall's illustrious career. Instead, it focuses on a single case and the ramifications of it. In doing so, it only briefly touches on the makeup of this iconic historical figure.

And I need to mention, for a PG-13 rating, this gets a bit rough. There's harsh foul language and some extended detail of the alleged rape sequence that is quite uncomfortable for the rating.

Thurgood Marshall's story needs to be told. We need to see how one man can change the evil in society and inspire others to do the same. That happened, and we should know that it happened. I just think it should focus more on the whole and less on one specific case.

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