Roman J. Israel, Esq. Reviews
The film is a bit confusing. Israel spouts what seem to be grand ideas, but the characters he's spouting to don't quite understand him, nor do we as the audience. We sort of get it, or at least we sense that what he is trying to say isn't just confused mutterings; it does have meaning to him even though he can't articulate it in terms that we can fully understand. And there are a couple of characters who feel the same way. They may not understand some of the things he's trying to convey, but they come to realize that, if they listen and give him a chance, his ideas are rare and extremely valuable. Maybe the entire, confusing film is a metaphor itself, for the character of Roman J. Israel. We don't quite understand its message, but we sense that it has something to say, even if it's not sure how articulate it to us. Maybe that's a metaphor for the way many of us live our lives. We struggle to articulate (even to ourselves) the things that we believe in and that give our lives meaning.
Another thing, which I suppose could be a mild spoiler. I prefer to discover such moments for myself, but the scene where Roman visits an activist group's offices, in hopes of finding a job that will be meaningful to him, is a spectacular piece of acting by Denzel. The camera gives him a little space; it doesn't give him a closeup so he can show off. After giving a heartfelt (and sometimes dick-ish) speech about the kind of activism that can affect change, the character realizes that this meeting is not going the way he had hoped, Perhaps he realizes that some of the things he said were unkind. Denzel chooses to cover his mouth with his hand. At first, we think that it's another of the characters quirky behaviors. But what we come to realize as the scene plays out, is that he realizes that he is losing control of his emotions. Any of us who has experienced this knows the tension one feels around the mouth. We try to hide it by relaxing our facial muscles. But the socially awkward Israel just hides his mouth with his hand. We think, as the other characters in the room must have, "Jeez, is he crying?" The camera isn't in close-up, but it does catch a tear escaping his eye, if we look closely. No CGI tear, either; it's too subtle. Realizing that it's now obvious to the other characters that he is weeping, he pulls out his handkerchief, wipes his eyes, and apologizes. So brilliantly acted, so many thoughts and feelings portrayed not by the words in the script but my a master thespian beautifully portraying a moment, like Dizzy Gillespie genuinely improvising harmonic complexity in a way that is both spontaneous and masterfully constructed. Perhaps you don't quite understand what I mean, but hopefully you can see that what I'm trying to say isn't just confused mutterings, and does have meaning to me even if I can't quite articulate it in terms that others can fully understand.
Another fine & thoroughly engaging performance by Denzel portraying a savant defense attorney who has what appears to be Asperger Syndrome. After his long time job behind the scenes with his sole partner ends, he doggedly forges ahead going by his old ways. Still living in the height of his activism during the 70's, he soon learns the world is not as black & white or cut & dried as he always believed it to be. The wonderfully idealistic & brilliant Roman J. Israel, Esq. has to find his way in the craziness of the over crowded dockets of the LA court system working for his new boss, George Pierce, played very well by Colin Farrell, a typical cutthroat attorney living high, who surprisingly starts learning some much needed lessons in humanity from him. Social injustice is the main thing that drives Roman, as he has always continued fighting the good fight for decades.
However, after struggling with his new job, Roman makes some poor choices & ultimately uses ill gotten monetary gains to fit in, & things take a totally different & dark turn for him. Very thought provoking storyline from Dan Gilroy, (Nightcrawler), that shows how much our society has changed for the worse & is simply in a word, broken, when it comes to civil rights & compassion.
Once again, Denzel totally deserves the best actor nomination. He delivers all around per usual.
Keep on truckin', baby... (I love that "Fro" Roman sported through most of the film)
The 60's & 70's songs chosen for the soundtrack worked perfectly along with the haunting score by James Newton Howard.