Sony has released the Roman J. Israel, Esq. trailer. The new film from Nightcrawler director Dan Gilory stars Denzel Washington as the title character, a struggling lawyer whose lifelong crusade for social justice comes crashing down when his partner suffers a heart attack. Adrift in a legal system he’s spent his whole life trying to change, Roman decides to go work for George (Colin Farrell), a high-priced attorney at a powerful firm. From there, Roman wrestles with trying to keep his mission alive in a world that continues to reject his idealism, and selling out to indulge in the pleasures he’s always wanted.
This trailer leaves out the finer points of that synopsis, but it does a fantastic job at portraying the moral (and legal) gray areas that writer-director Gilroy is playing in here. It dips into highly contested perceptions of sexism and racism, the perennially dysfunctional legal system, and the internal conflict between the thankless and costly job of being a crusader for social justice versus using your inherent advantages to game the system. Roman J. Israel, Esq. sure looks and sounds like it’s going to tackle a lot of complicated topics, so I’m curious to see how well it actually accomplishes this.
Matt caught the film at TIFF, and noted that while Washington gives a great performance (as always), the movie doesn’t hold together as well as Nightcrawler. As he also notes, “It’s not a bad movie, but it doesn’t quite know what it wants to say beyond showcasing a guy wrestling with idealism and pragmatism in the legal profession. It almost feels like a rough pilot for a CBS drama about a lawyer on the spectrum rather than a prestige picture.”
Check out the Roman J. Israel, Esq. trailer below. The film opens November 3rd and also stars Carmen Ejogo.