Malcolm XReviewed By PyThomas
Posted 09/16/98 01:38:58
This film did its intended job: to enlighten me about the notorious African-American icon of the sixties.You see, Malcolm X, a.k.a. Malcolm Little, a.k.a. El-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz (and in this film, Denzel Washington), was more than just a militant Muslim hell-bent on empowering the oppressed African-American society of the mid-20th century. He was an intellectual and a father as well. He wasn't always like this, though. In his youthful days as Bostonian Malcolm Little, he slicked his hair back like the popular style of the time, he was a party animal, he was on the wild side. Eventually it got him into serious trouble and was hauled off to prison. He then spent his time behind bars reading, learning, and gradually converting to Islam.
Trouble is, the brand of Islam he converted to, the Nation of Islam, was a rogue sect of the actual global Islamic faith. This particular sect believed that all white people were "devils" and nothing could be done to save their souls. Once out of prison, he changes his last name to "X" (in honor of the Lost Tribe of Shabazz) and dedicates himself to the cause of the Nation of Islam, tirelessly pounding the pavement preaching to his black brothers and sisters the message of hope and empowerment under the guidance of Elijah Muhammad (Al Freeman Jr.).
At this point, he meets an avid supporter of the NOI, Betty (Angela Bassett). They marry and raise a family as Malcolm gains more power in the organization through organizing demonstrations against the police and "The Man" in general. This leads to bickering within the sect, ultimately casting Malcolm out.
Shaken in faith, Malcolm decides to do what any good Muslim does at some point in his life: travel to Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage to Mecca. There his eyes are opened, as he sees people of all colors and races united to give praise to Allah. Back in America, he changes his name to the El-Hajj etc. version and starts to preach a more enlightened, more unified message of empowerment and faith. This ultimately rubs Elijah and his supporters the wrong way and sets the stage for Malcolm's final fate.
Spike Lee, in his first epic-scale directing effort, does a magnificent job in chronicling the charismatic leader's life, as well as displaying his influence on modern society. Denzel embodies Malcolm X flawlessly, right down to his gestures and manner of speech.
If you're one of those who believes Malcolm X was nothing but a hateful troublemaker, you should see this film. You'll see how the real Malik Shabazz ultimately evolved, and regret his abrupt demise, thinking about what could have become of him had he lived on and spread his new message even further.I know my view of the man changed after watching this movie. Spike Lee's wonderful film may improve on your opinion of Malcolm X as well.
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