Small Axe: Red, White and Blue
Spotlights the true story of Leroy Logan, who at a young age saw his father assaulted by two policemen, motivating him to join the Metropolitan Police and change their racist attitudes from within.
The third entry in Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’ series is the story of Leroy Logan (John Boyega), one of the first black officers in the London Metropolitan Police force, who went on to found the Black Police Association and sought to reform the police force from within. It’s an important story about a man who is both a remarkable trailblazer and an ordinary man who wants to live as good a life as possible. Logan is shown to be a thoughtful, intelligent man, with a promising career ahead as a scientist, who chooses to shun that to join the police force after he saw his father being assaulted by them. His belief is that change can only happen from within and this motivation drives him forward.
John Boyega is no stranger to playing a police officer who is forced to confront the racism and corruption of his colleagues, after his role in Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Detroit’, and if anything, his performance here is even more muscular and compelling. Logan’s calm and restraint in the face of some appalling racism is remarkable and his victory is in the progress he manages to achieve, despite the odds against him. This is a man who deserved a biopic and McQueen’s story does him justice.
Small Axe: Alex Wheatle
Alex Wheatle follows the true story of award-winning writer, Alex Wheatle (Sheyi Cole), from a young boy through his early adult years. Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and ability to grow his passion for music and DJing. When he is thrown in prison during the Brixton Uprising of 1981, he confronts his past and sees a path to healing.
Alex Wheatle is a Black British novelist who spent time in prison in the early 1980s after his involvement in the 1981 Brixton riot, which was a confrontation between police and protesters resulting from growing tensions in the preceding months. In this biopic about his life, also titled ‘Alex Wheatle’, we follow his time in prison as well as his formative years prior to his imprisonment. The spells in prison are important in showing how he would become the man he did, although we see little of his life after he is released from prison. Sheyi Cole is impressive in the leading role and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in future.
I felt this was the first entry in ‘Small Axe’ that I didn’t enjoy as much, and I think in large part that’s down to the short runtime (barely over an hour) which gives us enough of an insight into Wheatle to demonstrate the value of this focus, but not enough for it to really connect. Of course, I have to recognise that this is partly the fallacy of reviewing an episode of a TV series as if it was a film, but this is where I am on it.
‘Education’ is the final entry in the miniseries, and a review of that will follow over the next week.
Both episodes directed By: Steve McQueen
Red, White and Blue stars: John Boyega, Steve Toussaint, Joy Richardson, Neil Maskell, Stephen Boxer, Calum Callaghan, Conor Lowson, Assad Zaman, Antonia Thomas, Liam Garrigan, Tyrone Huntley, Nadine Marshall, Mark Stanley and Seroca Davis
Alex Wheatle stars: Sheyi Cole, Asad-Shareef Muhammad, Robbie Gee, Johann Myers, Jonathan Jules, Elliot Edusah, Khali Best, Dexter Flanders and Fumilayo Brown-Olateju