THE NEW YORKER: Marshall
Reginald Hudlin directs this historical drama, set in 1941, with an apt blend of vigor and empathy. It stars Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, a thirty-three-year-old N.A.A.C.P. attorney who is dispatched to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to represent a black man, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), who is accused of the rape and attempted murder of a wealthy white woman (Kate Hudson) for whom he worked as a chauffeur. As an out-of-state attorney, Marshall has to be paired with a local lawyer; his reluctant partner, Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), is an insurance specialist with no defense experience. Meanwhile, the judge hearing the case high-handedly bars Marshall from speaking in court, reducing him to Friedman’s silent counsel. Much of the action is set in the courtroom, where Hudlin (working with a script by the Bridgeport attorney Michael Koskoff and his son, the screenwriter Jacob Koskoff) lends physical energy to the language of ideas. He ties the dialectical action to Marshall’s energetic and plainspoken brilliance—and to the behind-the-scenes insights of Marshall’s wife, Buster (Keesha Sharp), and a random woman he meets in a bar. Meanwhile, the movie urgently dramatizes the threat of racist violence that poisons personal relationships and judicial proceedings alike.