With Daniel Day Lewis currently being the only actor with three Best Actor Oscars under his belt its upped the ante for those other actors with only two Oscars to their name which includes Tom Hanks though he’s been thwarted again this year having missed out on a nomination. So it falls to Denzel Washington with his Oscars for Training Day and Glory the latter for which he won as Best Supporting Actor but hey! an Oscar’s an Oscar and his title role in ‘Roman J Israel esq’ is arguably one of his finest roles ever. Here he plays a conscientious defence attorney with the dress sense of a 1970’s Open University lecturer and he works for a tiny firm of lawyers comprising really only of himself and his boss who dies leaving the company to be closed down and its outstanding cases passed over to a super firm of lawyers run by slick rick superlawyer Colin Farrell in role that a significant notch up from some of the rubbish he’s appeared in over the years.
Farrell quickly finds that Roman is not quite as dispensable as he first thought and agrees to employ him despite realising that Roman is something of a savant whose commitment to justice finds him taking action for clients for which he’s not really responsible or indeed authorised to do and constantly treads a line between getting fired after landing the entire company at the risk of litigation.
Written and directed by Dan Gilroy whose previous climactic collection of screenplays include The Bourne Legacy, Kong : Skull Island and Nightcrawler for which he was nominated for an Oscar. Here he’s written a legal drama that starts with Roman writing a draft for him to be struck off from practising as a lawyer but what evolves into an uncharacteristically idealistic lawyer who for once appears to not be doing it for the vast fees but for the people until he makes a fateful decision regarding the suspect for the recent murder of a shop owner.
The role of the savant Roman is Oscar bait which, cynical as it may sound, is always an attraction to Academy members and actors alike and it would have been easy for a lesser actor to fall into the trap of tics and twitches but Washington gives a brilliantly nuanced performance which, dare we say it, is better than this year’s sure fire Oscar winner Gary Oldman for ‘Darkest Hour’ but ‘Roman J Israel esq’ s box office failure in the US shouldn’t put you off watching a mesmerising performance.
Here’s the trailer……