Matthew at the Movies: Red, White and Blue (2020)

Red, White and Blue is the most recent entry into the Small Axe collection by Steve McQueen. It isn’t the intimate portrait of love at a party like Lovers Rock nor an epic tale of protests and challenging racism in a court of law like Mangrove, instead, it’s about struggling to change something as it’s challenging your identity.

Based on a true story, the film is about Leroy Logan, perfectly played by John Boyega, who played Finn in the recent Star Wars films, who is a Black forensics scientist that’s motivated to join the police force after his father was brutally assaulted by two officers.

Leroy’s mission is to tackle the problem from within. His plan is to join the force and establish a bridge between the two sides: Black and police.

But what if both communities hate you? The police don’t see Leroy as an accomplished officer and treat him as a lesser being. And when Leroy patrols around his hometown, every single Black person looks at him funny, sometimes yelling traitor, Judas, or coconut.

However, the one who protests Leroy’s decision the most is his father, Kenneth, wonderfully played by Steve Toussaint. His father is the more radical one, which plays against the stereotype of the young rebel and the old traditionalist. The main heart of the film is this parental conflict, new vs old, the incoming wave vs the stagnant sand.

The script, co-written by McQueen and Courttia Newland (they also wrote Lovers Rock together), is immaculate. Every scene between Leroy and his father are the shining moments of the film, as I said before, it’s the film’s central conflict.

Red, White and Blue is the most challenging and daring film in the Small Axe series. It’s not entirely ‘ACAB’ but it’s not entirely ‘Blue Lives Matter’, it’s in the middle. The film ends with a deep conversation with Leroy and his father. It doesn’t end comfortably and gives no right answer to any problems.

They don’t reconcile on their differences, but rather, talk about how big, substantial change will take much longer than any of us would like. But that’s why I think this might just be my favorite entry so far.

My previous favorite, Mangrove, while a very great film, plays it safe. There is a very clear ‘good vs evil’ battle in the film. You root for the main characters because, obviously, they’re right. But in Red, White and Blue, you may or may not believe in what Leroy is doing and you might even side with his father more, or you might be the opposite. It doesn’t give you any straight answers as to who’s right. And that’s why I like it the most. (5/5)

Red, White and Blue is available to watch for free on Amazon Prime.

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