Marshall Blu-ray Review
Living in Kansas I was quite aware as to the importance of Thurgood Marshall. For those unaware, Marshall was the NAACP’s lead attorney in a landmark 1954 lawsuit against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The suit challenged the state of Kansas in denying black children the opportunity to attend the same school as white children The ruling by the United States Supreme Court, which basically ended segregation in public schools nationally, is one of the greatest legal victories in judicial history.
Despite the title, MARSHALL is not a by-the-book biographical film. When we meet Thurgood Marshall (Boseman, adding another historical figure – Jackie Robinson and James Brown among them – to his resume’) he is in Connecticut, where the NAACP has sent him to act as legal counsel for a black man (Sterling K. Brown) accused of rape. Unfortunately, because he is not a member of the Connecticut bar (and because he is black) he is not allowed to try the case and must turn to local attorney Sam Friedman (Gad) to assist him in his investigation and basically be Marshall’s voice in the courtroom. The film turns into a decent “did he or didn’t he?” legal thriller, though we do learn some things that will help fashion Marshall into the man he would become.
Well written and finely acted, MARSHALL is a film that allows you to think along with the films characters. Is the accused – a black chauffeur charged with raping the lady of the house (Hudson) – guilty? He tells a good story but still there is something missing in his tales that lead Marshall to wonder if he is, indeed, guilty. Gad plays Friedman as a man truly in over his head but one who believes that everyone should be able to defend themselves in court, no matter the circumstances. Hudson is icily cold as the victim, with enough skeletons in her closet to make you doubt her. Is she telling the truth, or is she lying to conceal something more consensual? And will the biased judge (James Cromwell) allow any positive input from the defendant’s legal team?
Technically, the film is a finely crafted period piece, with nothing left out in the recreation of this time in our country, the 1940s. And while I did enjoy the film, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more about Thurgood Marshall that we could have learned. It’s obvious he was a brilliant legal mind, but, due to the circumstances set up by the court, it is Sam Friedman, who would go on to a career as a fine civil rights attorney, that the film focuses on. I personally would have liked to have seen more about how Marshall came to this point in his life…what incidents molded him into the man we all know of now. That being said, MARSHALL is a vehicle to introduce the man to people who may not remember him from their history books. A brilliant man with a brilliant mind, slowly embarking on a journey that will eventually benefit us all, no matter our race.
Video: The film is presented in its original 2:00:1 aspect ratio and is rather dark in the transfer. Images are clear but there is an almost dreary appearance to many of the scenes, both inside and out.
Audio: The soundtrack is presented in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 and has been recorded cleanly. Not a word is missed during the hushed courtroom scenes or in the various cross country telephone calls, despite the 1940s technology.
With the exception of a couple of upcoming Universal trailers there are no extras on this disc, which is a shame considering the importance of Thurgood Marshall in our country’s history.