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Sleek Legal Drama With Great Performances and Excellent Screenplay
Marshall is a sleek legal drama with great performances from Chadwick Boseman as the title character and Josh Gad. Don't be fooled by the snazzy vintage costumes, the real heart of Marshall's success is its screenplay and the chemistry between its lead actors.
This film follows pioneering Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in his earlier years as a lawyer for the NAACP. A white socialite in Greenwich, Connecticut, accuses a black man of rape and attempted murder. The NAACP believes the man, Joseph Spell, is innocent and sends Marshall to defend him. Marshall enlists local lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) whose previous track record involves tax or insurance cases. Friedman worries about his family's safety due to the unrest the controversial trial causes. Sam and Thurgood must work together to defend Spell and each other.
This film is very good and so is its screenplay. The touches of comedy bring a welcome balance to its serious topic and difficult history. There is an array of good lines for Boseman and Gad. Several other actors get a chance to shine as well. I appreciate that Marshall takes its subjects seriously, but doesn't take on a dreary tone doing it. The scenes in the courtroom are intense and keep you interested in the action. As the case develops, these scenes get more and more engaging.
While Boseman is very good as Thurgood Marshall, his performance is disappointing considering how hyped his portrayal has been in the film's ad campaign. He gives Marshall a suave personality but the script limits his ability to show off his range and really take the character on a journey. On the other hand, Josh Gad is a standout as Sam Friedman. He plays to his comedic strengths as Marshall's sidekick while also giving a genuinely good dramatic performance as a central and evolved character. He is a nice foil to Boseman and their chemistry reminds me of a buddy cop comedy.
The lesson I take from the film is that you have to follow your moral compass even when it's hard. Sam's unwillingness to join the case makes sense. He is just starting out and worried that it could ruin his reputation. The fact that he does it anyway is a testament to the person Friedman must have been in real life.
I give Marshall an age rating of 14 to 18 because of some racial and offensive language and suggestive and violent content, including depictions of the alleged assault. And my verdict on Marshall? 4 out of 5 stars. Marshall opens in theaters on October 13, 2017 so go check it out.
Reviewed by Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.
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