‘Marshall’ provides a brief window into the life of the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court justice

Barry Wetcher

Chadwick Boseman stars as Thurgood Marshall in the movie “Marshall,” which hits theaters Oct. 13.

“MARSHALL” — 3 stars — Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Sterling K. Brown, James Cromwell; PG-13 (mature thematic content, violence and some strong language); in general release

“Marshall” combines some decent courtroom drama with some compelling historical context to create a film that feels like more than the sum of its parts.

Named for the first African-American justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, “Marshall” isn’t a biopic so much as a snapshot of a key moment in Thurgood Marshall’s evolution. We don’t know much about where he came from, we have a better understanding of where he’s going, but director Reginald Hudlin’s film focuses on an event that gives us some compelling insight on the future justice.

Set in the early 1940s against the omnipresent background of World War II, we meet Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) as he’s building a reputation as a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Per the film, the NAACP’s mission is to defend African-Americans who have been unjustly accused of crimes based on their race.

“Marshall” focuses on a trial in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where a wealthy socialite named Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson) has accused her driver, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), of rape and attempted murder. Marshall isn’t licensed to practice in Connecticut, so he enlists a local Jewish insurance litigator named Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) to play, as he describes it, the Aaron to his Moses.

Friedman has…

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