Superheroes. It’s a word that’s thrown around lightly these days. We eagerly flock to movie theaters and our television screens to watch metahumans with extraordinary strength and abilities conquer the world. In everyday life and certainly throughout history, there have been real-life figures who’ve defeated evil and transformed the world. They have been pillars of change who’ve forced mankind to move forward — whether we were ready for it or not. The late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was one of those leaders.
When we receive our primary education, we (hopefully) learn about Justice Marshall and his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement — namely that he was the force behind Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated public schools in the United States. However, Brown v. Board is nestled in the middle of an illustrious career, one that spanned nearly seven decades and helped reshape the world as we know it.
Reginald Hudlin’s latest film Marshall follows the lawyer at 30-years-old just as his career was beginning to gain some traction. In 1941, Marshall was the sole lawyer for the NAACP. The United States was on the verge of entering World War II when Marshall was sent to Connecticut to defend Joseph Spell (portrayed by Emmy- winner Sterling K. Brown), a black chauffeur who was accused of raping his white employer (portrayed by Kate Hudson).
Though oddly cast, Chadwick Boseman slides on Marshall’s fedora perfectly — capturing his cadence and arresting intellect as soon as the film starts rolling. Though the brown skinned Black Panther actor looks nothing like the 6-foot tan skinned Baltimore native, you believe him from the very minute he opens his mouth, from the way he enraptures the courtroom to his everyday encounters when confronting bigots and racists on the screen.
Despite his massive success and reputation, 1941 still presents its hardships and barriers for Marshall. Upon arriving in Connecticut from Harlem, he is forced to enlist the help of a young Jewish insurance lawyer named Sam Friedman (played by a very convincing Josh Gad) who would be content to simply just exist in the background of the WASP washed suburb where he lives and practices. The fantastic banter between Gad and Boseman is what kept the film elevated when it might otherwise flounder into ordinary.
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