Chadwick Boseman continues to succeed playing legendary Black Americans, with his latest role as Thurgood Marshall in Marshall from Open Road Films and director Reginald Hudlin. Avoiding the birth to death angle that other biopics in the past have taken, Marshall finds Thurgood already a superstar attorney for the NAACP. Marshall has the task of defending a black chauffeur, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), accused of rape by his white employer's wife, Eleanor Struning (Kate Hudson), in Connecticut.
Thurgood is ready to try and claim victory. However, he hits a snag when Judge Foster (James Cromwell) decides that only lawyers licensed in Connecticut can argue before his bench. Thurgood is then forced to work with Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a Jewish lawyer who has never tried a criminal case. The surprise angle the film takes actually works in its favor, as we learn just how well of a lawyer Thurgood was as he coaches Sam. Boseman & Gad's chemistry is a natural one, and I wouldn't mind seeing the two reunite in another film.
Boseman, in his third starring role in a biopic, is excellent as always. Like his portrayal of Jackie Robinson in 42, Boseman doesn't go in the psychosis of Marshall; instead, he gives us just enough to make you want more. Boseman plays Marshall as a fresh, educated lawyer who hasn't even tried his most prominent case. Still, you just know he's going to go on to bigger things.
The supporting cast is all solid as well. Josh Gad was very impressive in his dramatic role, and fresh off his Emmy win, Sterling K. Brown shines as Spell, while Kate Hudson delivers some of her best work in years. One of my favorite scenes in the film shows Thurgood hanging out with Harlem friends Langston Hughes (Jussie Smollett) and Zora Neale Hurston (Rozonda Thomas). While the scene is brief, Smollet & Thomas both look great, and if there is ever a Harlem Renaissance miniseries, I hope they are recast in the roles.
The script by Jacob Koskoff & his father, Michael Koskoff, is also sharp. The senior Koskoff is a former lawyer, which help bring an added realism to the courtroom scenes. The junior Koskoff continues to grow as a writer after his previous adaption of Macbeth. The father & son team flesh out their characters in a believable manner and ensure that none of the principals are underwritten. Director Reginald Hudlin, who previously two of my favorite early nineties flicks (Boomerang & House Party), makes an excellent return to feature films. He has spent the last fourteen years directing TV. Hudlin gets the best out of his actors, and I hope he doesn't take another long break.
Thurgood Marshall led a remarkable life, and Marshall is just a small taste of that. Like 42 and the Barrack Obama biopics (Southside with You & Barry), it leaves you wanting to know more about its central figure. Marshall is highly recommended and worth the trip to your local theater.
Final Grade A -