Guest Blog: Malcolm X Review
Every year on February 21, the date of his assassination, I take time to rewatch one of my favorite films and remember the man who fought for the rights of African Americans in the United States: Malcolm X. Malcolm X (1992) is a powerful film about the life of how Malcolm Little became Malcolm X and then el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. This film was directed and co-written by Spike Lee and stars Denzel Washington in what I deem their best film.
The Story/The Direction:
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little and was taught Marcus Garvey ideals that stated white America would never accept black people and that they should return to Africa. Years later, Malcolm would become a minister and teach similar ideals. He became the most charismatic figure in the Black Muslim community and after pilgrimage to Mecca, he was able to teach that there were good people of peace in all races and that whites were not the devil. Malcolm's story is extraordinary as he created a life for himself after being told he could not do what he wanted to do as a child "because he was negro." This story required an excellent storyteller and Spike Lee was that person.
This film starts off strong and continues to do so as it moves along. Spike Lee is known for addressing the subject of race but not in a sentimental or cliché way. He shows his characters living and the reasons on how they become the people they are/were. He puts Malcolm on screen so the viewer can live the life that Malcolm lived. Most people remember Malcolm for his violent words against whites, which if you're a reasonable person, you might have arrived at the same place as him if you had gone through the same exact experience. However, Malcolm was not always like this. As he went through life, he was able to look at himself and reevaluate his idea up to his assassination. Spike Lee shows you each step of Malcolm's journey in a very progressive way. As Malcolm grows and changes, the viewer does as well. This is then fully supported by a star cast led by Denzel Washington.
Denzel Washington is the extraordinary star of this film. He does fantastic here as he was made to play this role. Every time you see him on screen, you think its Malcolm. I dare you to go watch old YouTube clips of Malcolm speeches with Washington's portrayal next to it and it's very close to the exact thing. At the time of this film's release, he was known for his Academy Award winning performance in "Glory." So to say that this film was a better film for him means something. Unfortunately, he was robbed of the Academy Award for Best Actor by Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman," and the film was not even nominated for Best Director or Best Picture. Lee once stated that after seeing Washington on stage perform Malcolm, he "never envisioned anyone but him in the role." You see why in this performance.
It is a long yet powerful film that does take time to watch but that’s it. But in my opinion, every moment is worth it.
This is one of the greatest biopics that has ever appeared on screen and it is what I compare all biopics to. It celebrates an American life that began in sorrow and how Malcolm reinvented himself. The direction of Lee and the acting of Washington are both superb that starts the very moment the film begins. Every time I rewatch this film, I remember how much it affected me as a child and how we have the power to change. The film continues to inspire me now and will educate future generations to come. There is a reason why this film has not been and hopefully will not be remade.
Reviewed by The Formal Review
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