Malcolm X, directed by Spike Lee, stars Denzel Washington as the famous black Nationalist leader whose conversion to Islam would set in motion a revolution in America.
The film portrays the various stages of Malcolm’s life, from his early years as a petty criminal to his incarceration, and finally through his conversion to Islam. First and foremost, Washington is fantastic as Malcolm and can feel every bit as aggrieved as Spike Lee for the fact that Al Pacino walked away with the Oscar for Best Actor in 1992 for Scent of a Woman.
Throughout the film Washington essentially takes on the role of three or four personalities and pulls every one of them out of the bag, whether it be a street thief from Boston or an influential revolutionary, Washington scores highly. With the film standing at over three hours (190 minutes) it is rather surprising that Malcolm X manages to successfully hold your attention for the most part, most if not all of that due to Washington’s performance as there simply is no entourage able to keep up. Malcolm X is a one man show, make no mistake.
The project called Malcolm X was something director Spike Lee had fawned over for years after reading the novel in which the film is based on (The Autobiography of Malcolm X) and it is because of this that the film feels like an homage to the great man himself, more like Woody Allen’s Manhattan and less like Michael Mann’s Ali.
Lee is a somewhat accomplished director who, as of yet, has failed to make a film that could establish himself as a ‘big name’ director, again similarly to Woody ‘if my films don’t make much money, I know I’m doing something right’ Allen. Whether or not Malcolm X can be defined as a ‘classic’ is unclear, but what is clear is that watching Washington on screen in one of his finest performances can be considered three hours well spent.