I love to learn about history through film. I know that films can take liberties when it comes to true events, but it encourages me to read about the actual people nonetheless. Marshall does just that for me. This film depicts an early case of Thurgood Marshall before he becomes the first African American Supreme Court Justice. In this case, Joseph Spell, an African American, is accused of the rape of Eleanor Strubing, a high class white woman.
Marshall receives this case as an assignment through the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This organization provides legal help to people of color that are wrongly accused. That’s when he meets Sam Friedman, an insurance lawyer who is tasked with this criminal case. Friedman tries to get the case passed over to Marshall, but fails due to the Judge’s order to keep Marshall out of the case. As a result, Marshall and Friedman are drawn together as a team to defend Spell against the wrong accusation.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Chadwick Boseman shines as Thurgood Marshall. Boseman carries the grace that Thurgood would have possessed during this case and the struggles he faced during that time. He also shows how intelligent Marshall is when it comes to a courtroom. It’s almost a shame how most of the people in the courtroom underestimate him considering all of the feats he overcomes in the future. Still, his resilience is evident as he tries to prove that Spell is an innocent man.
The only person to see his value is Josh Gad’s character, Sam Friedman. He relies on Marshall to guide him through the proceedings as this is his first criminal court case. Gad brings a strong performance as Marshall’s counterpart in the film. Friedman is initially reluctant to proceed with the case in fear that it will taint the name of his practice. As a Jewish man, he himself faces prejudice in his community. That’s where Marshall and Friedman connect. Through this relationship, Friedman learns to conquer his fears and to be strong enough to stand up for social justice.
The story itself wasn’t predictable. I immediately thought of To Kill a Mockingbird when I heard the plot of the film, but the two aren’t the same. As the film progresses, the case isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Both lawyers have to put their heads together to figure out the truth behind the manipulation of the prosecution. Of course the public outcry doesn’t help the legal team either.
The film highlights an important figure in history. Thurgood Marshall himself did a lot to improve the lives of colored people. There were plenty of storylines that the filmmakers could have picked for Marshall, Brown vs. Board among one of them, but I’m glad they picked a case that was before he was a household name. Marshall had to put in the extra effort in order to be taken seriously and the film portrays just that. The film is worth watching for the value that social justice is worth fighting for.
|Studio:||Open Road Films|
|Release Date:||October 13th, 2017|