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‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’ First Trailer: Denzel Washington Returns to the Best Actor Oscar Race

The director of "Nightcrawler" returns with another highly unconventional character study.

Denzel Washington was neck-and-neck with Casey Affleck for much of the 2016-17 awards season. The actor earned universal acclaim for his lead role in “Fences,” which he previously won a Tony for on Broadway, but his work couldn’t beat Affleck for the Best Actor Oscar. Washington didn’t end up winning the gold, but he’s got another shot at it this year thanks to “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” the new drama from “Nightcrawler” director Dan Gilroy.

Washington plays the titular Roman J. Israel, a liberal lawyer who finds out some unsettling things about his firm that go against his moral code of helping the poor and dispossessed. The discovery leads Israel down an existential crisis and forces him to take legal action into his own hands. Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo co-star.

“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, where Washington earned strong reviews for playing another of Gilroy’s memorable characters. “Nightcrawler” star Jake Gyllenhaal rode a wave of critical buzz to become an Oscar dark horse, yet he didn’t end up with a nomination. Washington is more of an Oscar favorite, however, and even the less-than-favorable reviews still consider him the highlight of the film.

“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” opens November 3 via Columbia Pictures. Watch the first trailer below, courtesy of EW.

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