MALCOLM X [1992] movie review

January 17, 2012 · Print This Article

It might be somehow odd to watch MALCOLM X on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but having earlier listened to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, X seemed like an appropriate companion movie for the evening as I could not think of any King movie existing.  A search of IMDB confirmed that, very surprisingly, there is no King biography movie, how has one never been made?  Perhaps because there is no actor that can play the part and be as uncannily in resemblance to King as Denzel Washington is to Malcolm X.  Additionally, I cannot think of any greater character arc covering more ground than Malcolm’s.  That was the biggest thing I got out of viewing X, just how far and how many times Malcolm changed as he expanded his world view.

I believe I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X in college for a class, and later saw this movie in the same class, so I remembered a few scenes, in particular when Baines first talks at length to Malcolm about the Nation of Islam as the straightening chemicals in Malcolm’s hair burn, and also how Malcolm is later able to move an entire crowd of people with a simple hand gesture resulting in a police officer saying, “no one man should have that much power.”

With a running time of over 3 hours, the pacing would need to be spot on by Spike Lee and it was.  The scenes and story arcs all flowed well and kept the viewer actively engaged.

I maintain that with what Malcolm was doing in the 60s and with everything else going on and coming to a head in that decade, that it was the best chance for dramatic, sweeping change in society, that alas never came.  Someone studying that history for the first time would come to predict a real revolution resulting from all the event of the 60s, but can that be said to have occurred?

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