The third installment of Steve McQueen’s revolutionary Small Axe anthology series is Red, White and Blue chronicling the career of Leroy Logan, a forensic scientist turned police officer who aims to tackle racism in the system by encouraging more non-white people to join the force. His goal to fix the system does not come without challenges as his colleagues are openly racist and his own friends and family look down on him for joining the force. Whereas the previous two films in the series have looked at how black people were treated from their side explicitly and what Red, White and Blue does is show how black people were treated from within the police force itself.
Just as McQueen explores the racism at the hands of the police in the previous two films, we get an even more intense and first-hand perspective through PC Logan’s point of view. Despite excelling as an officer, his unwillingness to accept the racist treatment handed out by his colleagues costs him promotions and eventually leads to endangerment when they ignore Logan’s pleas for backup when he is pursuing and attacked by an armed suspect. Whether he is part of the force or not, Logan is treated as a suspect despite having not committed any crimes just as he was searched in his school uniform as a child. McQueen only covers the beginning of PC Logan’s career rather than presenting a full span of his incredible achievements but it works because we really get into the brutalityand prejudice that he faced when he initially joined. If McQueen had decided to do a full blown biopic then maybe certain significant events would have been overlooked which would undermine PC Logan’s struggle to have his voice heard by a force that historically doesn’t wish to hear it.
John Boyega’s lead performance as PC Leroy Logan is fantastically layered. Aiming to change the system from the inside out, Leroy experience racial attacks from his white colleagues at the force and hatred from the black community who view him as a traitor for joining the police. With Boyega being a huge advocate for the anti-racist movement, it is a clear match in heaven for McQueen to work with him. Honestly, it’s a collaboration I have been wanting for years and it paid off. Boyega is such a charismatic actor that his success in the Star Wars films can make people overlook his range but he is stellar and carries the film on his shoulders. Showcasing the building frustration and conflict that PC Logan felt as he was attacked from both the police who believe he should accept their racism and those in the black community who view him as a traitor. The scene in which he confronts his colleagues in the locker room after discovering abuse scrawled on his locker is hugely intense and marks a turning point in which Logan becomes more active and vocal about his goal to end racism within the force.
The scene in which PC Logan pursues the armed suspect is an amazingly shot scene. A single running shot showing Logan making his way through an industrial printing factory floor by himself highlights the problems that he faced perfectly. He apprehends the suspect alone after requesting backup numerous times but does not receive the support of his fellow officers. Whereas Logan is indirectly punished for speaking out against their racism, the other officers do not face punishment for abandoning him in the field despite being a street away. This scene hammers home how Logan had to build himself up without the help and support given to his white coworkers. It’s a scene of little dialogue except when Logan is desperately asking for help. Still he pushes forward and the tension builds and builds until he is attacked and manages to arrest the perpetrator.
Red, White and Blue may not have received as much coverage as Mangrove and Lovers Rock have but it deserves a viewing just as much. Telling the story of a man who introduced important change within the police force and encouraged new rules for how people of colour were treated by the police is something that has been grossly overlooked by the media at whole. Steve McQueen is telling these stories now so other people can take inspiration from their struggles and achievements and make their own changes.
What did you think of Red, White and Blue? Let me know in the comments below!
Red, White and Blue is available to view on BBC iPlayer now!