Malcolm X (1992)
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There's great differences between the two as well, but to me Lee has many things in common with Oliver Stone. Both of them seem to have been born to make films. Both of them are uncompromising in bringing their artistic (and moral) vision to the screen, and neither will try to seduce the public by catering to their tastes. Both present their own interpretation of facts without apology. (For example, from what I've read it's not certain that Malcolm's father was actually killed by Klansmen. But Lee isn't in the same league as Stone when it comes to playing fast and loose with the "truth.") Stone even ends his movie 'Nixon' in a similar way to 'Malcolm X,' with footage of real-life figures blended in, though I'm not accusing Stone of imitation.
This movie has an epic sweep and scope and as a director Lee is up to the challenge. He is served well by being able to direct in several styles, one of which is almost cartoonish: witness the scene where Malcolm (Denzel Washington) and Shorty (played by Lee himself) go stepping out at the Roseland Ballroom, resplendent in their zoot suits. Some comic relief is welcome at times because otherwise the serious, heavy message of the picture might be overwhelming. For instance, the movie opens with a full-screen shot of an American flag while we hear a voice-over of one of Malcolm's most rousing, or inflammatory speeches, depending on how you look at it ("I accuse the white man of being the greatest murderer on the planet!") The flag begins to burn and eventually forms a flaming 'X' as the fiery rhetoric continues. But if you haven't been scared away, the next scene shows the young man Malcolm Little in a funny situation, having his hair straightened by a concoction that threatens to burn off his scalp.
Denzel Washington has won beaucoups of rightly-deserved accolades for his amazing performance in the title role. If you've ever heard or seen Malcolm X's speaking, you will be astounded at the similarities in tone and cadence. The illusion is so real one may not recognize that real archival footage of Malcolm is used late in the film. But this is not a case of style over substance here. Between Washington's talent and Lee's directing and screenwriting, an unforgettable character emerges. The film boasts other fine performances by Al Freeman, Jr. (especially good as Elijah Muhammad, a controversial figure in society, and eventually to Malcolm himself), Delroy Lindo, Albert Hall, Kate Vernon, Ernest Thomas and many others in its large cast.
It's clear that Lee doesn't care for the Motion Picture Academy and they don't particularly care for him. But the snubbing he and his picture got at Oscar time would be comparable to Richard Attenborough and 'Ghandi' not being nominated the year that film was made. Ordinarily, one would think this film is the kind of production Hollywood loves to honor. But Academy Award nominations or not, the film 'Malcolm X' is like the man himself: impossible to ignore.
Based on the best-selling autobiography by Malcolm X and Alex Haley,and with spellbinding direction by Spike Lee,it traces the story of Malcolm himself,from his days as a hustler and drug runner and hitting rock bottom during his imprisonment in the 1950's,he became a Black Muslim and then a leader in the Nation Of Islam under the guidance of the honorable Elijah Muhammad. His assassination in 1965 left a legacy of black nationalism,self-determination and racial pride that continues to the day and within a new generation whom for the first time has witnessed a masterpiece of cimematic work. This is marked by strong performances throughout with powerful direction by Spike Lee,cimematopgrapher Ernest Dickerson,and riveting breathtaking performances by Denzel Washington,Angela Bassett,and most notably from Al Freeman,Jr. as Elijah Muhammad. The real centerpiece of the film is from Denzel Washington himself,whose convincing performance in the title role brings this film alive. When this film came out,it only receive one Oscar nomination but however,the film garnered a lot of awards including the NAACP Image Film Award,The New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor,The Los Angeles Times Film Award for Best Director and Best Actor,and MTV Movie Awards for both Denzel Washington and Al Freeman,Jr.--all of this happened in 1992,when the film came out.
As far as the cameos go,this film had a lot of them in one picture including Black Panther Bobby Seale,Reverend Al Sharpton,The Honorable Nelson Mandela,Reverend Jesse Jackson,along with Hollywood walk-ons: Christopher Plummer,Karen Allen,Peter Boyle and Danny Glover,and Whoopi Goldberg.
Washington carried the film with a great performance worthy of an Oscar nomination if not a win which might have been guaranteed had the director managed to focus.
Spike Lee did a good job as director which is saying a lot, given the historical scope, danger of offense, and controversy of the project. His one weak area in this film was editing. There is no reason this movie couldn't have been half an hour shorter. Right off the bat, there were unnecessarily lingering camera shots and scenes that could have omitted. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking of Spike himself sliding under a woman's skirt and mugging the camera. That scene not only failed to further the story but instead made the audience stand up and say, "Hey, that's Spike looking at us!" Lee's biggest editing mistake was based on his desire to tell the story of Malcolm X AND tell the story of the African-American experience. That's more than enough for several movies so why cram it all under one title? After a clear scene illustrating X's life, Lee would move to a large dance hall to illustrate the richness of the African-American experience. A quick shot of the dance hall would have been sufficient. Instead the far away shots were maintained for too long and when the focus moved back to specific characters it moved to the character played by Lee himself. Why? I don't know. It certainly didn't help us to understand X any better. The ending with children saying "I am Malcolm X" also went on too long and should have been part of a separate feature. The cameos were distracting. The movie could have been tighter, shorter, and better except that Spike Lee wanted to put everything, including the kitchen sink, into it.
That being said, it is a great movie and I'm glad I invested the three and a half hours to watch it.
The acting is great, I particularly enjoyed Angela Bassett as Malcolm X's wife Betty Shabazz, as well as director Spike Lee playing Malcolm's zoot era friend, the wily Shorty. Overall this movie is well made, as can be expected of a great director such as Spike Lee.
OK, let's focus on content, then. Malcolm X wasn't Martin Luther King, but this movie portrays him like he had been King's ghetto version. In his autobiography, Malcolm X describes himself as having started as a street thug, although one who was driven to this life by racism, who was transformed in prison to a black minister and leader. An alternative but possibly more enlightened way to describe his career would be that he took up the same profession as his father, that of a black separatist minister (his father had followed Marcus Garvey, Malcolm followed Elijah Muhammad instead).
Another fact that the movie didn't bring out is that the Nation Of Islam are no Muslims. They were an idiosyncratic black American sect which borrowed some formal aspects from Islam, and sold Elijah Muhammad instead of adhering to his prophet namesake. One interesting question to ask yourself about Malcolm X is, when did he figure out that the NOI were about as halal as ham hock? If he really only became wise to the game after Muhammad had kicked him out, that would have made him seem a bit dim in the intellectual department (and I don't think that he was anything but sharp). But if he found out before then why didn't he leave the sect by himself? Does anyone really buy his magic transformation into a proper Muslim and non-racist on the hadj he went on after he had been forced to leave NOI? In the movie, Malcolm starts to doubt Elijah Muhammad pretty abruptly when he finds out that he has fathered children with his -- very much younger -- secretaries. This is shown melodramatically where the mothers are dressed up in their full freaky NOI costume, have their darling children playing around their feet and profess that they are only worried about their toddlers' wellbeing, i. e. present the picture of purity. I didn't buy that either, neither in the film nor in Malcolm X's life.
There are simply some aspects this movie should have addressed, some questions it should have raised. Instead it "cultivates" and adulates Malcom X. Apart from being a fierce speaker and writer, what actual plans did Malcolm X have? Did he implement them, did they work out, did they fail? How serious was he about separating the races, or was that just rhetorics? Did he actually further or hinder the Civil Rights movement? Didn't he, especially in the light of Obama, fail quite badly by his own standards? One scene I didn't buy at all was when Malcolm liberates a black man from racist police imprisonment. He threatens the officer in charge by telling him to look out of the window, through which we see a thin row of NOI goons standing before the police precinct. Somehow the captain freaks at the sight of 20 dudes in suits and ties and immediately gives in. In the following scene, Malcolm gives them a sign and they turn around like robots and march off. Wow, that's how the NOI fought? Too bad Martin Luther King hadn't thought of that. Although I'd advise anyone not to don suit and tie and descend on the local police outpost yet. Spike Lee feeds us off with simple cinematic razzle-dazzle.
Spike Lee also tells us quite unambiguously that Malcolm's father was murdered by the KKK, where this is at best highly speculative.
Another point: were the NOI with their guru, their uniforms, their sex separation and their bodyguards not perhaps a pretty scary outfit? Scary not only in "the KKK had finally met their match"-sense but more as in "made the KKK seem like a regular bunch of guys with a hood fixation, and the John Birch Society like a bunch of hippies"? Just a thought.
Then in the final scene Spike Lee serves up a "I'm Malcom X" scene which wouldn't have looked out of place in a Stalinist propaganda film.
Malcolm X once said that all his achievements should be blamed on Allah, and only his failings on himself. Spike Lee should have taken his word. If you want to learn more about Malcolm X, then even his autobiography is a better choice.
Having read Malcolm X's autobiography, I can affirm that the movie followed it very closely. Reading his autobiography will actually help you understand him even further. As will his indication that African-Americans bled for the white man in Korea, Japan, Italy, etc., so why shouldn't they bleed for their freedom at home? Anyway, "Malcolm X" is a perfect movie in every way.
9/10ths of the way into this movie, I was thinking "I can't believe it. Spike Lee actually has the balls to tell this story truthfully" and expose the Nation of Islam for what it really is: a lying, racists, hate cabal, that murdered Malcolm X.
But just short of the end, he (Spike) just had to throw it in; The Nation Of Islam could not have murdered Malcolm X without help from "The Man". In this case, as usual; the CIA. Forget that there are no actual facts behind this claim, it just NEEDED to be thrown in.
I'm tired of Hollywood re-inventing history. You think the Nation of Islam is just another religious sect? You think Louis Farrakhan is just another " religious" leader? You need to consider that this antiSemite claims that white people were created in a laboratory in Mecca around the year 1000, and are all decedents of the devil. Look it up, I'm not kidding.
Why is none of this mentioned in the movie, I wonder?
So Malcolm X is less a work of art and more a statement than Spike's previous films. It's scope is immensely larger than anything he did before it does, after all, span 200 minutes and is therefore, naturally, not as tight and focused as Do The Right Thing or Jungle Fever; but in Malcolm X Spike tackles head on the very subjects he treated with symbolism and subtlety in those films, and it was therefore a natural and important progression for him, and a logical continuation of those movies, and in it he proved that he has more than one voice. In a biopic, and for that matter, in any docu-drama, the most important factor is for the director to care about the subject, and I'm yet to see a director who's more passionate about his subject than Mr. Lee.
Malcolm X boasts a huge ensemble casts, with wonderful performances by Delroy Lindo, Angela Bassette, Al Freeman Jr. (in a harrowing performance as Muslim extremist Elijah Muhammad) and Spike Lee himself but the movie is still entirely Malcolm X's, and therefore Denzel Washington's. Spike's protégé gave a lifetime performance in Mo' Better Blues two years earlier, but he surpassed it with his gut-wrenching portrayal of Malcolm X, which earned him an Oscar nomination (unfortunately lost to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman) and based him as one of the best actors of his generation.
Although Malcolm X is not Spike Lee's best film, it's an important film that needed to be made, and it's a good thing that Spike was the one to do it. More than it's an impressive, moving, beautiful movie and it is - Malcolm X's story is a story that must be heard, and this biopic is a film that, truly, every cultured and intelligent person needs to watch.
This film and its writers, producers, directors, critics, etc. are an example of the extremes to which myth has attempted to transplant error. The protagonist is depicted as a humble, gifted, noble and superior hero who conquered white oppression through "self-enlightenment". In reality, Malcolm Little was a felon, a convict and a miscreant who sought advancement through narcotics, prostitution and illegal gambling. His "enlightenment" through the spiritual experience of the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims) was depicted in his statement about President Kennedy's assassination " the chickens would come home to roost ." Malcolm's association with the Black Muslims ended in his own brutal assassination by other peaceful, enlightened members of the Nation of Islam.
But Spike Lee directed this movie as a tribute to a hero who transcended racism though enlightenment and moral superiority. This is a terrible film not only because of its betrayal of reality but because it perpetuates the myths that are as evil as the bigotry and persecution that it assaults. There are no mythical heroes just as there are no sub-humans among the black races. Miraculous transformation of history does no more to elevate society than prejudice does. Greater lies cannot correct other lies.
Richard Pryor made the best statement on reality I have ever heard. Its majesty lies in its simplicity and accuracy. On a trip to Africa he attended a large community celebration of ethnic music, dancing, revelry, etc. As he sat among the hundreds of revelers he thought to himself, "Now look around you. Do you see any Niggahs here?" He answered to himself, "No, there aren't any. There never were any. Just people. That's all there ever were." In the same way, if the filmmakers as well as the multitudes of activists who advocate societal betterment would just see that all they have to deal with are people, the issues could begin to be resolved. Fantasies like this movie only prolong the hatred and incomprehension.
In the early scenes we see Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) starting out as a criminal under his accomplice named West Indian Archie (Delroy Lindo). He starts by robbing houses along with his assistant Shorty (Spike Lee) and joining his for the ride is a hot young blond named Sophia (Kate Vernon) with whom he chooses as a love interest over a much well-behaved African-American girl named Laura (Theresa Randle).
Later on, Malcolm ends up incarcerated and opposing the Biblical teachings from Chaplain Gill (Christopher Plummer) and seems more on the side of African-American Muslim convert Baines (Albert Hall). Once he's discharged, he become the top followers of the Nation of Islam under the influence of Elijah Muhammad (Al Freeman Jr.)
Malcolm X becomes a charismatic celebrity, which the white press so arbitrarily decided to lash out controversy towards this young radical. As his bravado increased proportionately, the Nation of Islam became very envious about it while the Nation of Islam becomes a part of a scandal involving Elijah's illegitimate children.
Malcolm eventually married Dr. Betty Shabazz (Angela Bassett) and raise three wonderful daughters. He then makes a religious journey to Mecca and declares that not all Caucasians are not entirely evil. When he returns to America, he breaks ties with the Nation of Islam and establishes a rival church that fits the modern spirit at the time. The Nation of Islam did not take this very well and at the Audubon Hotel in Manhattan on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was beginning a speech when a disturbance takes shape, Malcolm tries to calm everybody down and was gunned down (one of the shooters was his former friend Baines).
The movie itself was very high in terms of budget in spite of the very gargantuan production costs. Denzel was nominated at the Oscars for Best Actor in a leading role, but sadly was ousted by Al Pacino for his role in "Scent of a Woman." Washington had to wait several years before winning the Leading Actor Oscar in the film "Training Day."
The film itself was quite accurate in the time period clothes making it very authentic and the lingo spoken by the characters was very appropriate during the time period. The costume design was also in Oscar contention as well. The other high point was that many scenes were very well filmed, especially the uproar during Malcolm X's assassination.
Sure it was praised by many including myself, there are still quite a few issues that didn't sit very well with me. Some of these were small nit-pickings while others were much more bigger that truly hindered the film from being anything but perfect.
Where to start was the singing performance by Miki Howard, who was supposed to play the part of Billie Holiday, but her voice doesn't even come close to even sounding like her. Anybody who listens to jazz and Big Band music know Holiday's familiar voice. It wouldn't have hurt if she just lip-synched from a Holiday soundtrack and it would have been more convincing. Lee really should have known better.
The more obvious falsifications come from the character Sophia. She's hanging out at an all black girls nightclub and just freely throws herself in Malcolm's arms with no indication as to he is. I'm sorry but that is very illogical. It's just a scene designed to get male viewers' attention. It would never happen to you even if you have Washington's looks.
It seems strange that the Nation of Islam has a hostile attitude to Washington who at the time looked decent, well-caring family man who loved his wife and kids. Did he munch on pork rinds at the time? Who knows?
Another unanswered question stems from the scene where he stands up the cops after they unmercifully beat the tar out of a black man. Malcolm brings in a group of identically dressed black men to await for his command. Where did he find them and how did they fall into his lead? And what's the purpose of them acting like soldiers? To me they're there to look cool behind the camera if nothing else.
And finally I must wonder what does Malcolm X himself truly stand for? He transforms from a thief in his early years, to a radical Islamic radical and finally reconsiders his thoughts long enough and before you know it he's murdered. Sure his mission was to for equality, but his execution was more radical rather than peaceful. He was separated from most of his life and wanted his fellow people not to anticipate with anything the white majority did and joined a church who eventually turned against him by having him killed.
These quibbles are what brought this movie down. I think some editing should have been greatly desired as this movie went on too long and many scenes needed further explanation. But other than that, the performances were excellent an Washington acted his heart here as the the other performers. But the illogical scenarios brought this film down from being an absolute masterpiece.
Here, Lee goes out of his way to have the KKK mentioned several times and how they are "good Christians." An accomplice to many of Lee's bigoted films, unfortunately, is the fine actor Denzel Washington. Check how often Washington and Lee collaborate on films and how many of them play the "race card." Too bad because Denzel is a likable guy and a great actor. Lee is neither.
At 201 minutes this a long film but an interesting one nonetheless. I can't say I was ever bored watching this. It's also beautifully photographed with some slick visuals. You can tell a lot of love went into this movie. Too bad Lee can't put this much effort into a biography of, let's say, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa or Billy Graham.
Lee does not want any question about the tone of this film. Opening with footage of the Rodney King beating projected onto an American flag that chars before bursting into flames while Malcolm's `American nightmare' speech is played over the top, Lee leaves us in no doubt that this film will not step back from being provocative and incendiary. Unlike many reviews on this site, I will not review the politics of Malcolm X but I will try and view this as a film. I do not need to agree with the stance of X to be interesting in this film - I did not watch this film to fight with it or get annoyed by it, I watched it to listen to Lee tell the story of Malcolm X.
Substance wise, the film is too long - Lee did not allow the editors to be as ruthless as he should have been. I can understand why though, this was a labour of love and he must have felt that he needed that long to do the job. As a flow it works reasonably well, although it is too baggy quite often, but it is an interesting story nonetheless. Many critics have lambasted the film for it's bias. In that regard the only thing that surprised me was that they genuinely seemed surprised by this fact - what did they expect from Spike Lee? However, I don't believe that this is a fair accusation to make at Lee. He tells the story in a fair light - he doesn't hide the double standards of the Nation of Islam nor does he spin the anti-white teachings to paint Malcolm in a better light. Of course Lee is going to bring his own pro-black politics to the film, but that is his right and he doesn't rewrite history to serve himself.
In fact I admired some of Lee's touches as they actually produced a more balanced view. For example, where Malcolm is talking to Betty about his thoughts on women, Lee cuts to Malcolm being told the same opinion (word for word) by Muhammad - a brave move that implied the spoon feeding of his views that I didn't expect from Lee. Of course the other way to look at it would be Lee excusing Malcolm's stance on women by pinning it on Muhammad and in fairness to that view, Lee does tend to gloss over the NOI's view on woman's place. The film is a little kind to Malcolm but not to the point where the absurd claims about bias and spin would really stick - well, for the majority anyway. I did feel that, although it wasn't spin, that the final 5 minutes of the film really went too far with the little kids all standing up saying `I am Malcolm X', parallels with Jesus and then Mandella being wheeled out...now THAT bit I found to be unnecessary as it was not from Malcolm - it was heavy politicing from Lee himself in further evidence that he was knocked off his usual style by the weight of the material.
In fact, this stands out to me as being one of Lee's least stylish and slick films - only the early, freer scenes of Malcolm's crime, drink and dancing seem to be directed by a Spike Lee using the camera and the space. For the most part, Lee sits back and watches - apparently in total reverence of this subject and afraid to take away from the supposed importance of what the film is trying to do. It is a shame because the overly long running time means that it desperately needed a spark at times and I did expect Lee at least to bring the film alive with visual flourishes. Sadly, like I say, Lee's respect for his subject causes him to do nothing and, worse still, he includes some bits that just don't work - Muhammad's appearance in the cell is worst but Malcolm's trip to Mecca doesn't work as it is overlong and forced (again, as Lee stresses that Malcolm dropped the anti-white stance). In regards this, critics have unfairly accused Lee of trying to lessen Malcolm's stance and make it more acceptable (ie change history) but those of us who are a bit older know that we will learn things over our life and will not hold the same opinions as we did when we were 18, or 25, or 30. In the same way Malcolm lost his harsh teachings with age - this is the case, it is not Lee trying to trick us.
For all these reasons, the film is greatly in debt to Denzel Washington. If it weren't for his engaging and powerful performance then this film would be very bland for the majority. Happily then, Washington rises to the role and deals with it's changes and development really well. He makes a charismatic leading man and it is difficult to imagine that anyone else could have done a better job with this role - or that the film would have worked without him. The names of those involved is impressive, but not all their performances are. Bassett varies between being a shy little woman and having raging fights with her husband, in neither mode does she convince. Freeman is also pretty comic - but part of the blame for that lies with Lee's portrayal of him (floating in a cell is not a good look!). Hall, Lindo, Randle, McDaniel and Lee himself all do reasonably well in minor roles but the film belongs to Washington and it is just as well for the film's sake that he is up to the task.
Overall this is an interesting film that is worth seeing as an INTRODUCTION to Malcolm X - however if you take your opinion from this film alone then you are doing yourself a disservice. As a Spike Lee film it is surprisingly flat and lacking in the usual visual style that he brings, it is a real shame but this labour of love is not one of his better films (although it is not among his worst) - it is rather pedestrian, overlong and, were it not for a charismatic performance from Washington, would be a lot duller than the subject deserved.
The only thing equally as superb as Washington's acting is the directing and the script, which is at once honest and compelling. Except for a coda at the end that seems at odds with the rest of the film, the script is near perfect, relying heavily on true accounts of Malcolm X's life instead of altering the story to fit prescribed entertainment values, a bad habit of Hollywood filmmakers. Instead, Lee and Washington rely on Malcolm X and his history as the guiding force behind the film. Many of the incidences portrayed in "Malcolm X" actually happened, from his father being assassinated on railroad tracks, to the young Malcolm being involved with drug dealing to his rise as a star among the Nation of Islam, or so-called Black Muslims. In one scene that is history and not fiction, Malcolm X orders his entourage of male associates to stand outside a hospital when a fellow Muslim, Brother Johnson, requires medical attention.
Malcolm Little was an African-American, the son of an assassinated preacher whose family had sustained vicious threats from the KKK. As a young man, he relocated to Harlem and became a streetwise hoodlum involved in crime gangs. Racketeering, gambling, prostitution, and drug dealing were his first religion. Then after an incident with white girls that landed himself and his associate Shorty (Spike Lee, perfectly cast) in jail, he meets a member of a new religious organization claiming kinship with Muslims in the Middle East and re-claiming their African roots.
Headed by the honorable Elijah Muhammad who had converted to Islam and brought the religion (or at least his version of it) to the United States as the Nation of Islam, the so-called Black Muslims (although they do not refer to themselves as such) lures Malcolm into a new world of honesty, compassion, and purpose. To the their credit, the religious organization gives Malcolm Little, now renamed Malcolm X, a sense of purpose, an identity, a loving community, and rehabilitation from the vices that were destroying himself in Harlem.
After his conversion, he becomes a prominent voice among the sect, a spokesperson for the honorable Elijah Muhammad and his message of religious determinism. Simultaneously, they also preach dangerous messages including that all white folks are devils, and that the honorable Elijah Muhammad is to be obeyed without question. As the spokesman of their cause against whites, Malcolm X in some ways becomes the darker side of Martin Luther King, Jr who propagated that proclaiming African-American superiority was as sinful as proclaiming white superiority. The press dubbed Malcolm X the "angriest man in America".
Washington does more than just portray Malcolm X, he becomes him. Washington, I imagine, must have studied footage of his speeches and spoken with people who knew him. Speeches of the real Malcolm X as compared to speeches in the film as enacted by Washington are almost indistinguishable. His performance ranks as one of the top two or three performances by an actor in the history of the performing arts and cinema, up there with Ben Kingsly as Gandhi, Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane, Laurence Olivier as Hamlet, and Vivian Leigh as Scarlet O'Hara.
The turn in the film occurs when, in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm makes some ill-conceived remarks to the press. Malcolm X further learns that Elijah Muhammad is not practicing all that he preaches. The star of the so-called "Black Muslims" begins questioning not only his role but the integrity of the entire movement. He then makes a pilgrimage to Mecca, required at least once in the lifetime of a Muslim. His pilgrimage changes many of his views.
It's hard to describe this film without using many superlatives, but if there was ever a film that deserved it, it's "Malcolm X". Washington and Lee do a tremendous job of neither vilifying nor idealizing Malcolm X, the man. In retrospect on the man, I think Malcolm X began to realize he could serve a higher purpose to help unify rather than divide the races. In the end, Malcolm X began to encourage that dream, but, like Martin Luther King Jr, his mission was cut short. As for the film, it is an honest tribute to one of the most memorable figures of American history. And like the man himself, the work may only be appreciated by later generations. Malcolm X is the embodiment of the American story.
Lee tells the story of Malcolm Little from the beginning when his Garveyite father gets lynched and his family separated. We see the "Detroit Red" days as well as what I call Malcolm's initial "brainwashing" into the Nation Of Islam.
Spike Lee also makes history as one of the only filmmakers to ever be able to document the Muslim "Hajj" or Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca and pulls it off beautifully. It's no wonder that some Orthodox Muslims are among the most spiritually beautiful people In the world. I've witnessed this first hand.
"Malcolm X" would make a great companion to the book written by Alex Haley.
Another thing about director Spike Lee. Spike Lee is in fact, probably one of the most under-appreciated African-American directors in Hollywood. His movies have many underlying messages about race in America. It's a shame that his movies are so under-appreciated. Sure his movies are "critically acclaimed", but that doesn't mean that people are actually getting the messages he is trying to send. The same goes for John Singleton and The Hughes Brothers.
What's with the long dancing scenes at the beginning of the movie? The end is so melodramatic, I'm pretty sure it's Spike Lee's voice saying why you should respect Malcolm X... nobody cares what your vision of life is, rather tell me a story and then you can catch my attention , but the voice over spoils it. It's also ridiculously long and it's unnecessary.
Sorry Spike, you had to stay more centered to tell a good story, you couldn't shape your admiration for this man into a fine movie.