Life is about choices and those decisions often define a person. The new film “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” explores this at great length by showing what integrity is built upon.
The story of this movie is centered on Roman Israel (Denzel Washington) who is a long time civil rights attorney. Israel has spent his life fighting against injustice and for the rights of his clients. When his longtime law partner dies, Israel finds his life at a crossroads. As a last resort, he joins a corporate law firm.
With only a few weeks on the job, Israel does not fit in with the corporate climate.
He then makes several decisions that put his life into a tailspin out of desperation to make things better. To regain control of his life Israel is faced with making some tough choices that he would not have imagined making just weeks earlier.
Character driven stories have always been a favorite of mine. It’s the chance to explore a person in depth to see what drives them. You also get to see what motivates them to become more.
From the outside, Israel is a person who sets himself apart from others with his dated suits, large Afro, and the oversized briefcase he carries with him. Israel almost looks as if he stepped out of a time machine. While he comes off as awkward Israel is confident in his knowledge of the law. This provides him with the strength that offsets his brash personality.
One scene that shows this is when he confronts a judge about his client’s rights. He states in court that, “Mr. Ramirez was told that he was not under arrest and yet he was refused the use of the bathroom. That is a violation of civil rights.” The judge tells him that; “You can wait and address this at trial.” Israel responds stating that, “If guards in this courtroom would not allow you to use the bathroom you by definition would be detained.”
As I watched the events unfold on the screen, it was easy to tell that Washington really embraced this character. He made this flawed person with all of his oddities very real and genuine. I felt like I could run into Israel on the street.
Washington's performance parallels his role as Detective Alonzo Harris in “Training Day,” which he gave the character a lot of complexity. Other roles that he has demonstrated this ability to provide authenticity are as Troy Maxson in “Fences,” Rubin Carter in “The Hurricane,” and Silas Tripp in “Glory.”
With a lot of choices to see this weekend “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” is one that will provide audiences with a satisfying movie to watch.
I give this film four out of five mustaches.
This film is rated PG-13 for language and violence. It runs 129 minutes.