Steve McQueen’s fine ‘Small Axe’ series recreating the horrors of black racism in England in the 1960s, 70s and 80s continues its onward journey with this, the third film in the series after Mangrove and Lovers Rock, and by far the finest of the three so far. Red White & Blue tells the true-life story of Leroy Logan who was the first Black man to join the British police force.
While he was shunned and persecuted within the police force for the colour of his skin, he was also condemned by his community for being a ‘traitor'. But Leroy was very clear about his motives: he wanted to work for the betterment of his own community, and he thought the best way to do so was from within the system.
Gentler in his approach to the complexities of racial relations than ever before, writer-director Steve McQueen builds a strong case for Leroy’s stubborn refusal to buckle under. He takes on the entire system and the fact that he emerges victorious is left out of the film. We leave Leroy with his determination to stay in the police force.
Wisely, the screenplay converges on Leroy’s relationship with his father (played with innate conviction by the little-known Steve Toussaint). Call it a blemish in the script or a societal flaw, but the female characters, though strong, remain in the shadows. Even Leroy’s admirably supportive girlfriend is at best, a strong peripheral character.
Again as in the first two films of the series, McQueen recreates the period (the 1980s) through extensive use of songs. Pop and reggae blare across the soundtrack, though in no random way. This is a film about men of two races trying to mix in a place devoted to lawful justice. John Boyega as Leroy Logan dominates the show. He is gentle and yet affirmative in his beliefs. He hero-worships his father but finally does what his conscience tells him.
This is not only my favourite film in the series (so far) it is also more emotional than the others. There is a very moving moment between father and son when Leroy’s father watches his son proceed into the police academy, shouts for him, gets out of the car and embraces him, earlier dining-table fights forgotten.
There is also a Pakistani cop played by Assad Zaman whom his white colleagues berate for speaking to some Pakistani victims of racial hatred in “Indian”. Racial prejudice often stems not from hatred but ignorance.
Written and Directed Steve McQueen Red White And Blue Gets 3 and a half Stars
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