(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – Released last fall, “Marshall” is set around the real life court case of The State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell. The story mainly follows Chadwick Boseman as the titled role of legendary civil rights advocate and lawyer Thurgood Marshall. If his name doesn’t sound familiar, don’t worry the film fully explains who he was, although, he is someone you should already know.
It was 1940 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when an African-American chauffeur named Joseph Spell was accused of raping and attempting to murder his employer’s wife – a wealthy, white woman. In this time period, segregation was still enforced in some states; it’s worth mentioning that the Civil Rights Act wasn’t passed until 1964.
Because of racial issues surrounding the case, Thurgood Marshall is sent to defend Spell by the NAACP, National Association of the Advancement of Colored People. Due to a legal loophole, Marshall is prevented from being Spell’s attorney. This forces him to rely on inexperienced, criminal-court lawyer Sam Friedman to win the case, played by Josh Gad – whom you might recognize as Olaf from “Frozen.”
One of the best aspects of “Marshall” is the acting. About every main actor delivers a good performance: Boseman as Marshall, Gad as Friedman, Sterling K. Brown as Joseph Spell and even James Cromwell as the racist judge.
My favorite element of the film was the relationship between Marshall and Friedman. They don’t start off as friends, but overtime they start to form a genuine respect for one another. It’s done very well; I enjoyed their banter as much as their arguing.
“Marshall” is a very well-made movie. From start to finish, it’s filled with creative camera angles and effective filming techniques. For example, the camera shakes slightly in several scenes to help create the feeling of tension. These may seem like minor details, but to a film buff like myself, it helped me appreciate the movie a little more.
I have always enjoyed courtroom dramas such as “Twelve Angry Men,” “A Few Good Men” and of course “To Kill A Mockingbird” – which is a movie I had to mention at some point. Naturally, I got a kick out of seeing the defense attorneys find holes in a supposedly solid case.
Much of the film is really what happened, but not all of it is. “Marshall” isn’t 100 percent historically accurate.
Film critic Roger Friedman, nephew of the real life Sam Friedman, had problems with the portrayal of his uncle.
“Almost not a word of my great uncle’s depiction in the movie is accurate,” Roger Friedman said in his own movie review.
In truth, Sam Friedman was actually an experienced trial lawyer and was just as talented as Thurgood Marshall. He was portrayed to be insecure for the film’s narrative, which is true for other people and events in “Marshall” too.
With that in mind, the film admits that real people were fictionalized in the closing credits. It also doesn’t begin with “Based on a true story” in the opening credits, unlike some other inaccurate Hollywood movies. So in reality, “Marshall” isn’t false advertisement. Every movie based on a true story takes creative liberties, which is why there is no such thing as a completely accurate historical film, right?
And speaking of the credits, before the end, a recording of the real life Thurgood Marshall is played – so, don’t leave the theater too soon.
My only real criticism is that there are a few moments that feel cliché. For instance, the first scene with Sam shows him defeating a lawsuit against an elder woman, who then cries as she’s wheeled out of the courtroom. Which is a not-so-subtle way to show that Sam doesn’t like being an insurance lawyer. However, there aren’t many other moments like that.
Honesty, I was almost expecting the film to be another biopic movie made to win Oscars, but “Marshall” is a really good movie. I was pleasantly surprised by the final product.
I watched a lot movies in 2016, but I’m glad I went back and didn’t look over “Marshall.”