Review: “Marshall” is an engaging portrait of the justice as a young man

By Alan Zilberma, Special To The Washington Post

In the fact-based drama “Marshall” — a throwback to such courtroom-focused procedurals as “Witness for the Prosecution” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” — Thurgood Marshall is seen as something of a legal superhero. The late Supreme Court justice cuts a striking figure as he prepares to don his judicial robes before the film flashes back to the early 1940s, when, as a young attorney for the NAACP, he brought to the job an unwavering commitment to justice (and a willingness to get into bar brawls).

This oversimplified rendering, however, is complicated by the fact that the film is set in the Jim Crow era and centers on the case of a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman. Director Reginald Hudlin handles the story with just enough finesse to make its details more thrilling than uneasy.

Chadwick Boseman plays the title character, a confident young attorney who heads wherever the NAACP sends him. When a black chauffeur, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), is accused of sexual assault by his employer’s wife, Connecticut socialite Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), Marshall’s boss (Roger Guenveur Smith) assigns him to Spell’s defense.

But before the trial can even begin, there is a minor procedural delay: Because Marshall is not licensed to practice in Connecticut, another attorney (Josh Gad) must vouch for him. Gad’s Sam Friedman is drafted for the hearing by a judge (James Cromwell), who arrives at an odd decision: The accused will be defended by Friedman, not Marshall, who although he may act as co-counsel, is not allowed to speak in court.

There are two concurrent stories that play out here, informing each other in ways both direct and subtle. The first involves the case itself, with Spell declaring his innocence and his lawyers preparing his …read more

Source:: The Denver Post

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