In an era where civil rights victories are increasingly at risk, the new biopic “Marshall” does an excellent job of reminding viewers of what can happen when perseverance meets Black magic.
Based on actual events from the life of America’s first Black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, the film views the complex characteristics of the judge through the prism of one moment in his life as a lawyer, trying a very specific case.
The film takes place in 1941, where Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) is working as a trial lawyer for the NAACP. He is sent to Connecticut to defend Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), a Black man working as a butler and chauffeur who stands accused of raping his employer, a wealthy white woman named Eleanor Sturbing (Kate Hudson).
Spell then goes on to be accused of driving this same woman to a bridge, throwing her into the water, and beating her with rocks, despite his constant plea of innocence.
Once Marshall arrives to the town, however, he calls upon the help of a local Jewish lawyer named Sam Friedman (Josh Gad). What audiences don’t know immediately is that Friedman has only ever handled insurance claims.
What makes the story more complex is that the judge (James Cromwell) is inherently racist and rules that Marshall is not allowed to speak out in court, on top of the fact that if Marshall loses this case, the NAACP risks being shut down — all hinging on a case in which no one is fully certain Spell is innocent.
Throughout the movie, viewers are given a front-seat view of some of America’s most heinous acts of racism, alongside a strong Black man standing firm on his beliefs and the idea that the White man is not superior.
Directed by renowned black filmmaker Reginald Hudlin, the film is a tightly wound ball of rage, power, heroism and humanity. It’s a thought-provoking work, particularly amid current race relations in the nation, as we examine if we are moving ahead or just running in place.