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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 60s American civil rights leader Malcolm X is the closest he has ever came to the mainstream but he endows the big budget production with his characteristically powerful  combination of precise 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 Feb. 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 his rise 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 picture of1940s Harlem before gradually settling down to serious business as Malcolm himself begins to carve out his life’s work.  Lee 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 teh Afro-American community he was replaced by Lee.

 

 

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