There are many memorable events and characters in the movie. The character of Elijah Mohammad, played by Al Freeman Jr, is especially quite memorable. Elijah Mohammad’s prophetic words, as brought out by the compassionate prison mate proves to be a pivotal moment in the life of Malcolm X, as the former opens up the mind and soul of the young protégée to the realities of American society. It is due to the inspirational influence of Elijah Mohammad that Malcolm X abandon’s Christianity and embraces Islam. This new religious identification is a way of separating the black community with a Christian theology that is propagandized by the whites.
Other support characters too play their part in consolidating and highlighting Malcolm X’s personality and charm. For example, Malcolm X’s white girlfriend Sophia is an interesting character, in that, though she has an intimate relationship with the former, she is later looked upon as a member of the enemy community. It was under the useful tutelage of an enlightened fellow prisoner that Malcolm X awakes to the true nature of his suffering. It is at that point he was able to see that aping white folk and consuming their poison (manifest in the form of wine, cigarettes and women) will never fetch him lasting happiness. A radical new outlook and a revolutionary deviation from the status quo is what are required.
The film-making has its strengths and weaknesses. One of the outstanding features of the film is the appropriate use of background music to accentuate the unfolding drama onscreen. The jazz and blues undertones that accompany the entire narrative are particularly well crafted. The editing is of average quality though and the screenplay is loosely handled. Perhaps the director Spike Lee compromised on cinematic appeal in order to upkeep historical accuracy. The movie is also close to 3 hrs in length, which is quite long by conventional Hollywood standards. Towards the end, it felt that the narrative is stretched out at places and could have been trimmed down without compromising on the core content.
Coming to my personal reaction to the film, after watching it I learnt that Malcolm X is one of the controversial yet inspirational characters in twentieth century American history. The racial oppression of African Americans is a well established fact throughout the nation’s existence. Starting from the first importation of black slaves into the New World, this community has continued to suffer under the iron hold of their white masters. Although their status has gradually improved over the years (the recent election of Barack Obama as President serving as testimony to this assertion) some of Malcolm X’ core grievances remains relevant to this day. In this respect the time I spent watching this movie has helped me get educated about minority issues in America.