Reel Reviews | Small Axe (Red, White and Blue)

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

The true story of British police legend Leroy Logan who integrated the Metropolitan force is the subject of the latest episode of the Small Axe series on Amazon Prime, Red White, and Blue.

Ever since he was a little child, Leroy Logan (John Boyega) has dreamed of providing justice and equality for his Jamaican people in London.  So when the forensic scientist witnesses his father being unjustly assaulted by the police, he realizes that he has to become more involved.  Against the wishes of his father, Logan joins the police force hoping to make a difference.  With opposition on all sides, can he truly make a change on the streets of the city?

Directed by Steve McQueen from a screenplay that he wrote with Courttia Newland, Red White and Blue highlights the story of the famed officer Logan’s beginnings and stars Boyega with Steve Toussaint, Joy Richardson, Antonia Thomas, and Assad Zaman.

This part of the Small Axe series like the first episode shines a light on another little-known aspect of Jamaican history in London.  While Mangrove depicted a trial in the UK that was the first to recognize racial injustice, Red White and Blue explores the origin story of Leroy Logan who integrated the police force and went on to be the founding member of the Black Police Association.  Logan joined the police force in 1983 and has been an advocate for community and police relations even past his retirement which came in 2013.

While the standard McQueen pacing is nearly non-existent in this film, he does take one moment to ponder as birds fly through the sky and another to focus squarely on Boyega’s face as he fashions one heartbreaking tear.  Boyega is intense and powerful in this film but he also seems to be the one problem.  In all the previous movies in the series, McQueen has been very deliberate in his casting.  Boyega is not Jamaican or even Afro-Caribbean but English with Nigerian in descent.  Thankfully, this is the only real problem with the film. 

Not Boyega’s acting though.  Coming straight off of his success in the Star Wars movies, Boyega chose to work with Steve McQueen because of his ability to push actors to find the truth in their roles and push him McQueen does.  Boyega gives us the one tear scene, he explodes with righteous anger and he despairs over the loss.  The performance in this role for Boyega is so grounded and emotional that Boyega truly shines in this power and we bask in his glory.

It might have been PT Barnum that said “always leave your audience wanting more” but it is a concept that McQueen takes to heart in this film.  This story is just about the humble beginnings of the story of Logan.  McQueen interestingly fights the urge to provide a pre crawl end scene to explain anything at the movie’s conclusion.  This clever move forces the audience to invest the time to find out more about the life of Leroy Logan at their own pace.

Rated TV-MA for profanity, some language, and some violence, Red White and Blue is an interesting investment in time, story, and acting that allows viewers to experience the struggle of the Black British community and allow us to see the struggle of ourselves here in America.

Grade:  B