Chadwick Boseman is charismatic as Thurgood Marshall, the crusading lawyer who in 1967 became the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.
This film doesn’t focus on that achievement, and neither does it highlight one of Marshall’s landmark legal victories in the fight against segregation.
Instead, it revolves around a lesser-known case from far earlier in his career when he arrived in Connecticut in 1941 to defend a black chauffeur (Sterling K Brown) charged with raping and attempting to murder his white socialite employer (Kate Hudson).
As it happens, the presiding judge (James Cromwell) is so blatantly biased that Marshall isn’t allowed to speak in court but can only guide and prompt the inexperienced white lawyer, Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), who finds himself reluctantly taking the case.
The ensuing drama is an engaging blend of mismatched buddy movie and legal thriller, as Marshall and Friedman contend with prejudice in and out of the courtroom, not to mention the wiles of the prosecuting attorney, played with snooty disdain by Dan Stevens.
In cinematic terms, Marshall is thoroughly conventional, but it’s undeniably stirring stuff all the same, with Boseman making the most of some resonant lines of dialogue – ‘The only way to get through a bigot’s door is to break it down’ – and giving his character an utterly magnetic swagger.