Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
Dealing with the death of one’s mentor
Lawyers who defend criminals
Reform needed in plea bargain cases
Judges in the Bible
What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Answer
What is THE FINAL JUDGMENT OF GOD? Answer
Breaking the law
How can I know what is RIGHT and WRONG? Answer
How can I discern whether a particular activity is WRONG? Answer
What is RIGHTEOUSNESS? Answer
Activism for civil rights / equal rights
Denzel Washington … Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Colin Farrell … George Pierce
Carmen Ejogo … Maya Alston
Lynda Gravatt (Lynda Gravátt) … Vernita Wells
Amanda Warren … Lynn Jackson
Hugo Armstrong … Fritz Molinar
Sam Gilroy … Connor Novick
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|Director:||Dan Gilroy—“Nightcrawler” (2014), screenplay of “The Bourne Legacy” and “Real Steel” (2011)|
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|Distributor:||Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures|
Roman J Israel, Esq. is a very quiet man. He’s worked with the same law firm and partner for the past few decades. Roman and his partner primarily serve pro bono those who cannot otherwise afford to defend themselves. Roman prefers to be the “behind the scenes” or “can we settle” guy of the law firm, always at his partner’s beckoning hand. And if there’s anything Roman has enjoyed, it has been stability.
Roman’s life gets turned upside, however, when his partner ends up in the hospital with a serious illness from which he will never recover. After being informed that his firm will be closing for financial reasons, Roman must seek employment from a young hot-shot lawyer named George Pierce. Along the way he meets a young activist named Maya who reminds Roman of his former life in civil rights activism. As Roman’s past starts to dictate his life again, he faces a series of events that begs him to redefine the true meaning of the word “justice.”
Walking into the theater, I wasn’t sure if “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” was going to be my kind of movie. I am not the type who usually goes to legal-dramas, so, for me, this was a leap of faith. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. Now granted, the film isn’t one of the strongest I’ve seen Denzel Washington in (in my opinion his strongest are “Remember the Titans” and “Unstoppable”), but he certainly gives a strong performance in this film.
It is Denzel’s performance, as others have pointed out, that carries most of the weight of this film and that allows it to succeed and for plot pacing to remain relatively smooth. I would suspect that without Denzel Washington’s strong performance the film would likely have suffered in several key moments (which I won’t spoil here in my review).
One small annoyance is the rhetoric that Roman spouts off. Granted, this kind of philosophical language is critical to establishing his character, but at times it got so deep my head started to spin. Overall, though, this is a relatively strong film.
One of the central themes is “justice.” Throughout the entire course of the film Roman questions his own personal view of justice. Man’s view of justice and God’s view of justice are not always in agreement. God’s justice is always right and good, taking everything into account and cannot be swayed or altered. Sinners who reject Christ’s free gift of salvation and remain lost in their sins when they die will be called to the throne of God to await their final judgment. Each of will be accountable for their actions and will be judged using God’s justice. The Bible has much to say on God’s justice:
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it,
Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” —Revelation 20:11-15
But know this, God calls all of us to Him to be in his presence and to follow Him before the day of Judgment. He does not wish for any of us to perish. Look at these verses, with this in mind.
“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” is a fairly well made film, but it’s not one that will go in the record books as one of the world’s greatest, and it seems unlikely to win many Oscars® in February, but, if anything, it does show the Washington’s flexibility in taking on roles outside his normal comfort zone. My grade for this film? A solid B-.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.