Sunday 23 August 2015

Review: Malcolm X

I can't believe I haven't seen…

Macolm X Poster

Macolm X (1992)
Cert: 15 / 197 mins / Dir. Spike Lee / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

You see? I knew there was a time when Denzel Washington didn't fly planes pissed and attack stereotypical Russian gangsters with a nailgun. Turns out it was 1992. The biopic about one of America's most controversial Civil Rights figures was never going to be an easy story to tell, and more credit goes to director Spike Lee for not attempting to make it one.

Unflinching in its lionisation of Malcolm X's strengths and flaws, the 197 minute journey sees a masterful performance from Washington, although this often comes at the cost of his supporting players being sidelined altogether. Despite spanning Malcolm's whole life (with his childhood presented as key flashbacks), the film has such a massive time-period to cover (as well as the numerous points in his personal development) that it skips over areas that would usually be deemed indispensable; the pencilling-in of the entire relationship with his wife, Betty, being among the worst casualties (this also belies the film's issues with misogyny, most of which go unaddressed). Elsewhere, Lee peppers the brutally frank biographical style with moments of almost abstract symbolism, while Terence Blanchard's sweeping, romantic score undercuts them both.

As great an achievement as Malcolm X is, I think it would have been more accessible as a trio of shorter, but more in-depth films, separately but connectedly depicting the phases of his life.

Because if you're not trying to make the story of an outspoken, complex leader accessible to audiences who have perhaps misunderstood him, then why make the film at all?

Have you really never seen this before?
Well again, it's not exactly a night in with a few beers, so no. The knowledge that I should have seen it is why it's on this list.

So are you glad you've finally have?
Certainly am.

And would you recommend it, now?
Yes, but only to people who've got three and a half hours of heavy-concentration going spare.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I didn't hear one.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Well, Malcolm X features an appearance from Christopher Plummer, who also starred in 1964's The Fall Of The Roman Empire as did Sir Alec 'Kenobi' Guinness.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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