TV review: Small Axe
From a stormtrooper in the Star Wars film franchise to a private security guard in Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit, John Boyega seems to have a propensity for playing enforcers.
And he usually nails it, just as he does in Red, White And Blue - the third instalment in British film-maker Steve McQueen's five-film anthology Small Axe, which charts black British culture and experience from the 1960s to 1980s.
It is based on a true story that follows Leroy Logan (Boyega), a young forensic scientist looking for something more beyond his solitary laboratory work.
When he sees his father assaulted by two policemen, he finds himself driven to become a police officer - an ambition that stems from the naive hope of wanting to change racist attitudes from within.
Before he serves and protects, he has hurdles to overcome, including his father's disapproval and the blatant racism he finds in his new role as a despised constable in the Metropolitan Police Force.
"I'm out there with no backup," he yells at his boss after wrestling with the street brutality on the job. Logan feeds off that tension, and Boyega's sincerity in the role keeps you engaged in his slow-burn character study, even if you cannot understand some of his decisions. (How does he join the very people who attacked his father?)
Red, White And Blue offers no shocking conclusion nor any answers to Logan's quest, except to highlight the courage in raising questions in the first place.
McQueen skilfully communicates the exasperation felt by his characters in dealing with their hostile white oppressors.
He demonstrates the same in Mangrove - Small Axe's first instalment - about the Mangrove Nine case in 1970, when a group of black British campaigners were tried after demonstrating against police harassment.
The other three Small Axe films are Lovers Rock, Alex Wheatle and Education.
Mangrove and Lovers Rock were part of the Cannes Film Festival line-up in June, with McQueen dedicating the films to George Floyd and "all the other black people that have been murdered, seen or unseen, because of who they are".
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