20 October 2017 | travishouze
Marshall Is Good, But Not As Great As It Could Be
Growing up one of the first influential black figures I learned about was Supreme Court Judge Thurgood Marshall. While my life didn't veer in the path he took, it was a chance for me as a young black male to see the dedication and time he took to his craft and where it could take you. Almost 2 decades have passed since then, and found myself surprised to see a film finally based on him and his capabilities. While the younger me was excited, I found myself wondering how this film would hold up side by side with other black period films like itself in recent history.
Thurgood (Chadwick Boseman) is working in the NAACP when he is tapped for a court case of the accusation of a black male rumored to have raped a woman and thrown her off into the river and left for dead. While he travels to Connecticut for the trial, he finds himself hard pressed given he is a out of town lawyer unfamiliar to the client, and is left to have a inexperienced attorney (Josh Gad) to speak on his behalf in court. While Thurgood knows most of the material and how to move in court, he has to show Josh's character the way to observe things his way.
The performances are all relatively solid by no surprise given the cast. Josh Gad is able to sell the inexperienced character almost having to be hand held through every decision made in the courtroom. Also the development of him progressively becoming more confident as time goes forward. The writing in the courtroom is interesting enough to keep you invested in knowing what's the truth and the holes in one plaintiff and defendants stories.
Alas, my biggest issue with the film is really the lasting impact. While it is perfectly watchable in the moment, I felt as if a story like this should have had more lasting impact than what I saw given it's a film in a movie theater. It's not as riddled with clichés like preceding films I've seen in the past, but misses a strong distinctive voice. For some the issues I had with Hidden Figures, I at least know who the target audience was for the film and what they wanted to take from the movie. Marshall doesn't really have that same feeling. The writing is never bad, but never as sharp as it feels like it should be until the second half when more gets revealed.
Marshall in a nutshell I would say is "almost there" as a movie. Fine within the moment but leaves a bit desired when the credits rolled. I wouldn't turn anyone away from seeing this, but may be best suited seen at home.