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USA 1992
Directed by
Spike Lee
201 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Malcolm X

Spike Lee’s biopic of the 1960s American civil rights leader Malcolm X is the closest he has yet come to the mainstream but he endows the big budget production with his characteristically powerful  combination of precise visual style and provocative content.    

Although today the civil rights movement is increasingly remote, Malcolm X was one of its iconic figure when he was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York on February. 21, 1965, three months short of his 40th birthday. Lee’s film covers Malcolm's life from his beginnings as Malcolm Little, the son of a Nebraska preacher, through to his involvement in the Nation of Islam and his adoption of the Muslim faith and the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, shortly before he died.

In the first part of the film Lee indulges his love of striking visuals with an over-the-top celebration of1940s Harlem before gradually settling down to serious business as Malcolm himself begins to carve out his life’s work. Lee, never one to be shy with his opinions, is clearly a believer and an Oscar-nominated Denzel Washington is superb in bringing his subject to life. How much is willing romanticism and how much is historical truth is impossible to say but Malcolm X is an impressively ambitious, indeed epic, film and a top drawer filmic experience.

FYI: The film began production with Norman Jewison as director but following an outcry by the Afro-American community he was replaced by Lee. Praise the Lord!.




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