Directed By: Spike Lee
Starring: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Delroy Lindo
Trivia: Years earlier, Oliver Stone tried to bring this story to the big screen
Spike Lee’s Malcolm X is a force to be reckoned with, the epic story of a man who lived several lives, only one of which the majority of Americans ever knew about.
Malcolm X (played superbly by Denzel Washington) was Malcolm Little, a man from the rural south whose preacher father was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. In his early days, Malcolm held a job as a Railroad Porter, took to straightening his hair, and did odd jobs for a shady Harlem gangster named West Indian Archie (Delroy Lindo). A petty thief, Malcolm eventually landed in prison, where his association with a fellow inmate (Albert Hall) would lead him to the Nation of Islam and the teachings of its leader, Elijah Mohammed (Al Freeman Jr.). Shortly after his release, Malcolm joined the Nation, and went on to become one of its most fervent disciples. A gifted speaker, he called for the followers of Islam to take action (violently, if necessary) to end the oppression of white America, and it wasn't long before his words put him in direct conflict with the policies of the Nation of Islam, leading to a rift with Elijah Mohammed that would ultimately end in tragedy.
The controversy Malcolm X generated when he was in the public eye was, in large part, fueled by his own statements, such as referring to the assassination of John F. Kennedy as nothing more than “the chickens coming home to roost”. Yet his fiery words were but one aspect of Malcolm X. So it stands to reason that his time as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam is, in turn, merely one aspect of Malcolm X. In this film, director Spike Lee provides a glimpse into the experiences that defined the man; some good, many bad, but all of equal importance in determining the path he would take through life. It’s all here; the childhood of promise stifled by bigotry, the days as a common thug and drug addict, the commitment to Elijah Mohammed and the Nation of Islam, and the betrayal that drove him from the cause he loved so dearly. Lee gives equal time to each and every one of Malcolm X’s vastly different lives, and in so doing has crafted as complete a picture of the man as he possibly could.