Director Spike Lee’s bio film Malcolm X comes to Blu-ray looking great and sporting a 40 page book that looks at the making of the film and its stars. The Blu-ray also features a bonus DVD of the Oscar-nominated 1972 feature length documentary Malcolm X.
Based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley, the film was directed by Lee (who co-wrote the screenplay with Arnold Perl), and stars Denzel Washington, Delroy Lindo, Albert Hall, Angela Bassett, Al Freeman Jr., and Lee. It also features cameos from Bobby Seale, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Nelson Mandela.
Covering different important moments in Malcolm X’s life, the film starts with his criminal career as Malcolm “Detroit Red” Little (Washington) with his friend Shorty (Lee) in Boston before moving to Harlem where Malcolm works with gangster named West Indian Archie (Lindo).
For the most part, his crimes are common robberies, running numbers, drugs and other petty things. He has a falling out with Archie over a bet, and eventually ends up in prison. Although Malcolm and Shorty are convicted for their robberies, Washington’s voiceover points out their greater crime was being with white women at the time of their arrest.
In prison, Malcolm continues his criminal path before eventually changing his life and converting to the Islamic faith thanks to the help of fellow inmate Baines (Albert Hall) who also introduces Malcolm to the Nation of Islam. Baines further educates Malcolm on his new faith and the words of Elijah Muhammad.
Malcolm emerges from prison with the new name Malcolm X (rejecting his birth name as a slave name) and becomes an important part of the Nation of Islam as one of its ministers. As Malcolm X, he spreads his message across the country opening new mosques and eventually marries Betty X (Bassett). The film spends quite a bit of time showing Malcolm’s rise as a political figure in the Civil Rights movement as well as his role as a minister.
Eventually, Malcolm X is forced to leave the Nation of Islam due to a falling out with Elijah Muhammad. He then forms an independent mosque known as Muslim Mosque and undertakes a pilgrimage to Mecca. Malcolm also becomes more scrutinized by the government as Lee shows him being followed and wire tapped by members of the CIA.
Malcolm returns from his pilgrimage with a more tolerant view of whites and blacks working together and the Civil Rights movement. His new beliefs also cause a deeper divide with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.
Lee does an excellent job filming the February 21st, 1965, shooting of Malcolm X at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. Although the audience knows the outcome, the scene is very suspenseful and full of emotion.
Malcolm X was an extremely powerful drama when it was released in 1992, and it still packs that power. The film is filled with great performances, and Lee does an excellent job bringing the different aspects of Malcolm X’s life to the screen.
Washington was nominated for an Academy Award for the film, and deserved to win (he lost to Al Pacino). The talented actor disappears in the role, and is completely believable as Malcolm X. He also does an excellent job presenting Malcolm Little and Malcolm X as two very different men.
I also enjoyed Bassett’s performance as Betty X. Although she is a very supportive wife to her husband, it is fun to see Malcolm X somewhat put in his place by the strong Betty X when he is pursuing her to be his wife. Bassett plays the character as confident and not easily intimidated.
Lee’s film looks great on Blu-ray, and the bonus material makes it worth the upgrade. The 40-page booklet is filled with glossy photos from the making of the film along with bios and behind the scenes information. The bonus DVD documentary is also a very nice addition and well worth taking the time to watch.
Malcolm X featured a great performance from Washington and is well worth taking the time to watch. The bonus material makes it worth the upgrade, and the film continues to be one of Lee’s best efforts as a director.
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