'Small Axe: Red, White and Blue' Review: John Boyega excels in film on Black cop changing British justice system

Boyega is here to stay and he is here to use his voice and skills to give importance to the kind of stories that have to be told today


                            'Small Axe: Red, White and Blue' Review: John Boyega excels in film on Black cop changing British justice system
(Amazon/BBC)

With Steve McQueen's (director of '12 Years a Slave') film anthology series coming to Amazon's Prime Video, viewers have been exposed to many facets of Black British culture -- specifically that of the Windrush generation. Spanning three decades, beginning with Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech, the anthology series is set in London’s West Indian community and each film is released weekly. The first release from the anthology is 'Mangrove' and tells the story of the Mangrove Nine, who clashed with London police in 1970. The second film in the anthology, 'Lovers Rock', is a relatively lighter film that takes a look at the Black music culture developed by the Windrush generation.

The third film, 'Red, White and Blue' is perhaps one of the most anticipated in not just the anthology, but also in general. Starring John Boyega of 'Star Wars' fame, 'Red, White and Blue' is a retelling of historical events like 'Mangrove'. Boyega plays Leroy Logan, born of Jamaican immigrant parents, who as a research scientist decided to become a police officer after seeing his father being assaulted by two officers. Logan is credited with having helped changed the Metropolitan Police's racist attitude in a large way. Logan firmly believed that he could change the institution from within, and this creates a fallout in his family, his father being set against Logan's decision to join the police force.

Boyega has been in the news as the Black Lives Matter protests raged across the world. During one in London, we saw Boyega call out police brutality in tears and that same conviction plays throughout the film. As Logan deals with racist officers -- some call him "coconut", meaning brown on the outside and white on the inside, 'Red, White and Blue' shows the unabashed racist attitudes that were enmeshed in the majorly white police force who wanted Logan out of the force. Logan, on the other hand, perseveres to lead the way for change, as he tells his wife and that is ultimately what 'Red, White and Blue' is about.

Of course, it goes without saying that viewers might heed a trigger warning before watching it. Plenty of what is shown in 'Red, White and Blue' has not changed, and for those who are deeply moved by this year's events, the film could be a difficult watch.

As always, Steve McQueen excels and proves that he is a director to watch out for. The stories of Black and brown people are getting much more exposure to be told genuinely, and certainly, the film industry stands to update itself as prominent voices come forth. Boyega's performance is a delight to watch, but it is also quite hard. As Stormtrooper Finn, Boyega had already captured most of our hearts, but as Leroy Logan, he proves that he is not a one-role actor. Boyega is here to stay and he is here to use his voice, his skills, to give importance to the kind of stories that have to be told today. 

'Small Axe: Red, White, and Blue' premieres on Prime Video on Friday, December 4.

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