Some people battle on their own, in silence. Not letting the world know, is a choice. Chadwick Boseman made one. He suffered from Colon Cancer for 4 excruciatingly long years without ever making it public. As painful as it is to see him leave with a minuscule body of work, it can only be through these cinematic outings that we can relive in his memories.
Born Chadwick Aaron Boseman the American actor was raised in South Carolina. Having an ancestral line from the Krio people from Sierra Leone, Boseman wrote his first play – Crossroads about a school classmate who was shot and killed at a young age. After graduating with Bachelors of Fine Arts in directing from Howard University in Washington, D.C in 2000, Boseman had an urge to write and direct films before he began to study how to relate to actors. After doing a few teaching gigs, Chadwick Boseman finally took pursuit of an acting career in 2008. There was no looking back thereafter.
As mentioned on his official twitter account, playing King T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther was the greatest honor of his life. This list, however, will only contain those films by Boseman that could slip through the crack and never get a mention:
1. 42 (2008)
Directed by Brian Helgeland, 42 is an inspirational film that recounts the incredible life of Jackie Robinson who dedicated his life for racial integration in professional American baseball. Named after the jersey that Robinson wore through his major league career, the film took an earnest and respectful look at Robinson’s life and his struggle to do what’s right.
Chadwick Boseman was born to play Robinson. His dedicated dive into the historical figure with accuracy and contentment raised 42 above the standard biopic format. In a film where heroism mattered not just on-field but off-field too, Boseman shone like a crazy diamond in the dust.
2. Get on Up (2014)
Tate Taylor (after his Academy Award winner ‘The Help’) took it upon himself to bring the God of soul music to life. This James Brown biopic was all about the rise, the strange rules, and moves of Brown. Recounting his life from his early childhood to him becoming one of the most well-known icons of the 21st century, the film followed a non-linear narrative that based itself on Brown’s consciousness. Frequently breaking the fourth wall, Get On Up doesn’t nudge away from showing the grey side to Brown’s character.
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I think I already said it above but seeing how well Boseman was able to take up the persona of James Brown makes me want to say this again – he was born to play this role. Shape-shifting as a character that went from one high frequency to another, Boseman was breathtaking as James Brown. He was able to capture every single move of the subject from all his maniac tip-topping glory to his uncanny absurdness. In doing so, he lets us settle down the conventional beats of the biopic genre to really delve into a man who knew what showmanship actually meant.
3. Message from the King (2016)
There’s nothing much to recommend in Belgian genre filmmaker Fabrice Du Welz’s gritty American neo-noir. After the initial setup of a man from Cape Town, South Africa searching for his younger sister in L.A, the film slowly starts to derail under the grasp of a poorly written character arc. After having its premiere at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, Message from the King went on to his US Netflix on August, 4th 2017.
While the film did not do much for Boseman fanatics, it was definitely an old-styled American revenge flick that used it’s nihilistic lense to showcase another brooding and action-film persona that Chadwick later donned in Black Panther. Seemingly like a strange mix of neo-noir aesthetics and comic-book sensibility, the film saw Chadwick Boseman in a charismatic look that was hard to look away from.
4. Marshall (2017)
In a small, delicately chosen oeuvre, Chadwick Boseman has played 3 historical figures of great importance. In the 2017 legal drama, Marshall, he stared as Thurgood Marshall – the first African American Supreme Court Justice. Looking a sharp, old-fashioned courtroom-drama narrative to showcase the early life of the titular character, director Reginald Hudlin holds a tight-rope focus that nudges the film more towards a courtroom drama than a biopic.
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As always Chadwick Boseman was fantastic as the champion of equality is a time when people didn’t know it existed. Presenting facts from the perspective of a courtroom drama, Marshall was a simplistic drama boosted by an entertaining and illuminating turn by Boseman.
5. Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Unlike many people who absolutely adored the new Spike Lee Joint, I was on the fence of what it truly became. While it has an important subtext about aging, war, and the demons we carry with ourselves long about the trauma has run it’s course, I felt it was also a complete mess. However, it doesn’t take away anything from what Spike Lee was trying to say here. It is still one of the better films of 2020 if only a bit disappointing, to say the least.
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The films’ focus was on 4 war veterans who return to Vietnam searching for the remains of their fallen squad leader played by Chadwick Boseman and in the lure of stumbling onto a treasure that they buried there. Having regret what the film actually became, I couldn’t take my eyes off Boseman for whatever runtime he was in this film. As an aggressive, squad leader and as a ghostly entity that stays with the Veterans he left a lasting impression that the film as a whole wouldn’t have left it wasn’t for him.