Malcolm X

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Malcolm X is the gripping, and very long, story of real life Muslim radical leader. Born Malcolm Little in Nebraska, this movie chronicles Malcolm’s life from his teenage years until his assination. Denzel Washington, who in my mind is probably the only person who could play this role, is simply fantastic as Malcolm X. The movie starts when Malcolm and frined “Shorty” played by Director Spike Lee start getting involved in crime in Boston. The movie seems to concentrate on all the wrong things they did wrong when they were younger, and makes it that much more of a stronger case how ‘wrong’ they were. As Malcolm and Shorty get involved with white women, robbing houses and doing drugs, they eventually end up in prision. This is where Malcolm first learns the teachings of Islam, and starts to become Malcolm X. It’s here where the movie really takes off, being just short of 3 and a half hours, there are some very slow scenes, it is to develop character, and it’s nearly 90 minutes into the movie when we first start to see the arrival of “Malcolm X”. It’s also here, that we see how much power and influence that Malcolm X has over his disciples. The whole concept of being a muslim was not only to hate the white man, but to blame them for everything that has gone wrong. Their view of things is that they have had the short end of the stick for more than 400 years, and now it’s time for him to pay. Gone are the affairs with white women, the drinking, the drugs and the way of life that they were accustomed to. Malcolm emasses a small army in one scene to check on an injured “brother” (they refer to each other as brother, i.e. brother Malcolm, etc.).

We first see the power of Malcolm X as he controls a peaceful mob with but two waves of his hand, and it’s a bit of foreshodowing when the police officer mumbles to himself “No one man should have that much power.” We all know the saying about power, it corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is, unfortuneately, very true as this movie comes to a close. Watching Malcolm X for the first time on DVD was a great experience, this was my first time to actually see the movie and I’m glad that Warner Brothers did it right. Spike Lee, in my opinion, did a fantastic job with the script and in my opinion was influenced by Scorcese. At some points during the movie, I felt like I was watching GoodFellas! Denzel Washington gives one of his greatest performances, and I have to admit that Spike Lee has gained a new fan in me as well. While Malcolm X might take an afternoon to watch, I can honestly say that it’s worth it. For those of us who grew up long after his assanation, we can see how some of the turmoil of the 60’s and how much influence has had a lasting effect on our country that is evident still today.

Video: How does it look?

Malcolm X is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image that looks very, very good. It’s not perfect, the movie is about 6 years old and seemed to have some scenes that looked a bit grainy. I’ve never seen any of Spike Lee’s other movies, so I can’t say if that’s really his style or not. The disc clocks in at 202 minutes (like I said, it will take up an afternoon), and is dual-layered. Overall, another nice job from Warner Brothers on this transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is used here, and occasionally with great effect. Many crowd scenes, or scenes with speeches literally put you right in the middle of the action. Dialogue is obviously very important here and is clear with no real distortion. Surrounds are used frequently, but you tend not to notice them, as you’re caught up in the action of the movie. Nice job here as well.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Unfortunately, this is the only down point of Malcolm X, but it’s with good reason. The disc is so packed with the actual movie, say like Heat, that there is literally no room for much else than come cast and crew bios and a screen of the awards that it won. Eventually when DVD-18 becomes more popular (DVD-18 is dual sided, dual-layered), maybe this will be released with a commentary track or some other extra material. As for now, the movie itself is more than reward enough.

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