Malcolm X (1992)
Reviewed on 2011 January 4
Note: this is a movie review. I’m eschewing politics, religion, race, even how you may feel about Malcolm X personally, and anything else except how Spike Lee interpreted Malcolm’s story, as he told it to Alex Haley. I think he handled it well, and I’m saying this as someone who read Haley’s book. This follows the book closely and the acting from the leads is pitch-perfect.
Lee (and Haley, for when you read the book) follow Malcolm’s own story, from the horrendous treatment of his parents and his own encounters with racism as young Malcolm Little, to his life as the hood nicknamed Red, hustling and running numbers rackets under the tutoring of Shorty (Lee) and West Indian Archie (Delroy Lindo). The movie segues just as easily into his decision to follow the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad (Al Freeman, Jr.). Lee also unflinchingly covers what later happened between Malcolm X and Muhammad, and X’s fateful pilgrimage to Mecca.
It’s a long movie, and that’s fine with me, because it doesn’t lag or feel uneven when it moves through the different chapters of Malcolm’s life. Being detailed is one thing; being detailed without being boring is an art. I like how Lee even made sure to get a picture of W.D. Fard hanging in a shot of Elijah Muhammad’s house.
Three chocolate morsels.