Spike Lee gives solid directing in the way he depicts the electrified, and angered 1960s African American Civil Rights movement, lead by Malcolm X. Denzel Washington gives us a performance that shows us a character true and honest to what he represents, a man who not only fought for civil rights but died for them.
So incredibly sluggish for the two-thirds, which leads to Spike Lee cramming in Malcolm Little's conversion in prison, rise to leadership in the Nation of Islam, trip to Mecca, AND assassination into the last 45 minutes. The movie spends too much time focusing on Little's days as a petty criminal and fails to show us the moments that led him to becoming the African American icon that he is. I was quite disappointed.
It is hard for biopics to rise above their reputation as Oscar bait and there are few which feel genuine and memorable (Ed Wood/Man on the Moon being examples); this is one of them. I wouldn't call it Spike Lee's masterpiece (see Do the Right Thing), but it is his second best film. Washington completely transforms into Malcolm X. Beautiful camerawork and storytelling make this an epic in every sense of the word.
A more subtle and potent flick than you'd figure. Watch it as an epic about twentieth century black America (the well-armed, self-reliant bits especially), and you'll gain something. Think of it as a tragedy about organizational coherence, message control, and rigid separatism, and you'll want to watch it again. Pay attention to Malcolm's "strikingly upright" right forefinger throughout