GATUNEK: Biograficzny, Dramat, LEKTOR.PL
OPIS FILMU: Thurgood Marshall zapisał się w historii tym, że w 1967 roku został pierwszym czarnoskórym sędzią Sądu Najwyższego Stanów Zjednoczonych, tworząc precedens, który zmienił cały kraj. Rzadko kiedy mówi się jednak o tym, kim Marshall był wcześniej, jakim był człowiekiem, w jaki sposób zdobył renomę, która pozwoliła mu na osiągnięcie tak wysokiego stanowiska. Film opowiada o młodości przyszłego sędziego, gdy jako charyzmatyczny prawnik walczył idealistycznie o społeczne zmiany. Akcja rozgrywa się w 1941 roku, gdy Marshall stawia czoło systemowi, podejmując się obrony czarnoskórego mężczyzny oskarżonego o gwałt na białej kobiecie. Pomaga mu biały prawnik, ale reszta kraju patrzy na to wszystko ze zdumieniem.
PLOT: About a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases.
In 1940, Thurgood Marshall is an NAACP lawyer travelling the country defending people of color who are wrongly accused of crimes because of racial prejudice. Upon his return to his New York office, he is sent to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to defend Joseph Spell, a chauffeur accused of rape by his white employer, Eleanor Strubing, in a case that has gripped the newspapers. In Bridgeport, insurance lawyer Sam Friedman is assigned by his brother to get Marshall admitted to the local bar, against his will. At the hearing, Judge Foster, a friend of the father of prosecutor Lorin Willis, agrees to admit Marshall, but forbids Marshall from speaking during the trial, forcing Friedman to be Spell’s lead counsel. Marshall must guide Friedman through notes, such as when he advises Friedman to allow a woman of Southern white descent into the jury because of her assertive and questioning personality.
Spell swears to Marshall that he never had any sexual contact with Strubing, and leads the lawyers to a patrolman who stopped Spell that night while he was driving Strubing’s car. Marshall and Friedman investigate Strubing’s story that Spell tied her up in the back seat of her car after raping her, and then drove to a bridge to throw her over. They wonder why Spell appeared to throw her over the calm side instead of the side with rapids. Spell is initially interested in a plea bargain offered by Willis, but Marshall talks him out of it. Later on at trial, though, a doctor testifies to finding pieces of skin underneath Strubing’s fingernails, as well as bruises. Strubing herself testifies that she was tied in the back seat when the patrolman pulled Spell over. With this information, Marshall and Friedman confront Spell, who admits that he was lying about not having sexual contact with Strubing.
At trial, Spell testifies that Strubing’s husband inflicted the bruises through repeated acts of spousal abuse. That night, he went to see Strubing for an advance on his salary, finding a distraught Strubing wanting to have sex with him. Spell consents, and the two have several sexual encounters that night, with Spell getting scratched by Strubing. But then Strubing panics about being found out and being pregnant. Spell tries to drive her to a doctor, but Strubing has to hide in the back seat when the patrolman questions him. A hysterical Strubing forces Spell to stop by a bridge where she runs out and tries to kill herself by jumping off. But she survives and flags down a motorist making up a desperate story about rape. When Willis asks why Spell didn’t tell the truth to begin with, Spell talks about how black men get lynched in his native Louisiana for having sex with white women. Over Willis’s objections, Judge Foster allows Spell’s statement to stand.
Before the verdict, Marshall has to leave for a case in New Orleans. A desperate Willis offers Spell a much lighter plea bargain, but Spell feels emboldened enough to turn it down. The night before Marshall leaves, he and Friedman prepare the closing statement that Friedman then delivers on his own. The Southern white woman has now become the jury forewoman, and she ultimately delivers a „not guilty” verdict. Friedman happily breaks the news over the phone to Marshall, who moves on to his next case. Closing credits note that Friedman went on to work in many civil rights cases.