First Hit: I enjoyed the innocence, charm , clumsiness, and brilliance of Denzel Washington’s Israel.
Roman J. Israel, Esq. (Washington) is a savant in knowing civil law. Teamed with his former professor, who is the court face of this law firm, Israel is the brilliant man behind the curtain. Israel has spent his entire career at a desk in the office preparing all the paperwork and briefs for his partner.
One day his partner has a heart attack and passes away. When Israel goes to the office he's greeted by Lynn (Amanda Warren), his partner’s daughter. She tells him the firm is broke and defunct. He’s asked to get a continuance for all the pending court cases, but instead, he goes to court and starts arguing the cases and immediately gets hit with a contempt of court citation because he lacks tact and courtroom experience.
The firm is being swallowed-up by a law firm run by George Pierce (Colin Farrell). Pierce offers Israel a job doing what he’s been doing for more money and initially Israel says no. Discovering that he’s stuck in the 1970’s, as reflected by his taste in music, electronics, and clothing, and has poor communication skills, he cannot get a job.
Forced to make some money, he takes Pierce's up on his offer and becomes the office odd-ball. But some soon learn just how brilliant he is and how he set the tone for civil rights law during his career. In an opportunity to address a local ACLU group led by Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo), he again discovers how misplaced his views can be to a young group of activists.
As he sees his life careening out of the mental box he’s lived in, he makes one attempt to move into the 21st century. In doing so, he breaks attorney / client privilege and turns in the name of a trigger man in a murder robbery. Collecting reward money, he begins to treat himself.
This is where we get to watch Washington do his magic in acting. He makes the constant shifting between be the 70’s boxed-up guy and a modern guy taking advantage of the world. It's sublime.
Of course, as a Hollywood movie would do, all this catches up with Roman and his way of making it right and how Pierce honors this choice is touching.
Washington is brilliant. He climbs into role and the character with a clear understanding of making this part really work. Farrell is wonderful as the quick smart lawyer and business owner. The moments where he shows us and Israel his humanness is just enough to make it all work. Ejogo was fantastic. She made me believe she loved what she did and that she knew the civil rights history Israel brought to her life. Dan Gilroy wrote and directed this film. I loved the look and feel he brought to Israel as a throw-back to today’s world.
Overall: I liked the story and thought it worked well.