Spike Lee is one of those directors where you already know what type of movie he got his hands on. Just from judging by how America is turning into a massive toilet with all the hate and heavy tension that’s been spreading around lately, his latest joint, BlacKkKlansman, might prove a heavy point upon viewing experience.
What’s the Story?: Based on a true story, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington, son of Denzel) is the first African-American detective to be apart of the Colorado Springs Police Department. Once he’s there, he reads an ad for the Ku Klux Klan and plans a dangerous mission to infiltrate and expose the group. To make this plan work, he recruits Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to go undercover as Ron to get the information needed.
While I’m not a fan of Lee, BlacKkKlansman actually looked really good. After hearing a surprisingly good word of mouth when it won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it’s probably gonna be good, but since Lee’s name is behind it, this most likely to cause some controversy of some sort. This could end up being a solid drama, produced by Jordan Peele, that’s probably won’t be as great as many others had said. But holy crap! BlacKkKlansman is one of the best movies to come out this year. This is Lee’s best movie since Inside Man, and believe me, he hasn’t made a good movie in a long time.
Seeing how this was based on Stallworth’s memoir of the same name, written for the screen by Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, Kevin Willmott it’s hard to really believe this investigation would happen where there are a lot of KKK members out there, especially in the 70s. As stated at the beginning, “Dis joint is based on some fo real shit, fo real.” Since Ron is talking through the phone with his “white voice”, nobody knows that he’s black. This was almost like a spin on the Prince and the Pauper, for some reason. But I love Lee’s idea of tackling this subject matter since it’s becoming very timely and relevant. It doesn’t necessarily hit you over the head with what we want to understand, but it ends up becoming provocative.
Washington quite possibly gives one of my favorite performances of the entire year. He gives a committed role as Ron who doesn’t want to work in police records and wants to be an actual detective. Following in his father’s footsteps (even sounding just like him), he’s gonna be a name that’s gonna be remember in here and in future projects along the way.
He starts to make a connection to activist Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier, Spider-Man: Homecoming) once he meets her at a local rally ran by civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael, now calls himself Kwame Ture with the Black Panthers. You can see that Ron that isn’t just undercover, but he cares enough about Patrice.
Driver always never disappoints me. This isn’t because he’s Kylo Ren, but because he’s a damn talent. His situation as Flip is hard enough when he’s Jewish and hasn’t to fit into the racist crowds to gain their trust, but much so with Flix (an excellent Jasper Pääkkönen) feeling suspicious about him making us worried that he’ll get caught. But the chemistry between Driver and Washington was outstanding.
For Topher Grace to portray an evil man like David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK, that hasn’t to be the toughest role to do whenever you have to get rid of all those sins after reading the script. He actually doesn’t take this man and make him this angry racist, he’s calmer and doesn’t become that angry when he becomes telephone friends with “Ron”. Still doesn’t make him a good guy. But his performance was excellent.
Though the film is mainly a crime drama, it still has it’s small comedic moments when it doesn’t distract the film’s tone. The film kicks in with a scene from Gone with the Wind followed by Alec Baldwin making a newsreel about how the nation has changed into a so-called Mongrel Nation. So you know what movie you’re in for. The good thing about this is that it’s still able to keep the suspenseful and tense calm enough.
And I love the music throughout this from the 70s songs of the decade like “Too Late to Turn Back Now” by the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose to the beautiful score from Terence Blanchard.
Really, the only problem that I can come up with is that there were a couple scenes that were a little slow leading into the third act. Beside that, this was a surprisingly fast 135-minute drama.
At the time this is being released, it would’ve been a year since the riots in Charlottesville. To make that work sting more, Lee makes the decision to use real footage of what happened up there. And all know Trump will dislike this movie in an idiotic tweet because he doesn’t acknowledge that most of the world’s problems are because of him running the country.
Imagine if this story was happening right now. Would it have the same outcome? How should we be able to handle racism in a world like this now? Is it for good or bad reasons?
As I was walking out of the theater, my mind was making me feel tense, angry, joyful, and floored all at the same time. What does BlacKkKlansman? A film that I’m not gonna forgot.
This is why smaller shouldn’t be forgotten, especially for August. From its phenomenal performances from Washington and Driver, fantastic script, a message that should be taken seriously, BlacKkKlansman just blew me away from beginning to end. The chances that everybody is gonna love this are pretty slim, but they should give this a shot and check it out when they can. When the Oscars come around, I pray that this doesn’t get ignored as Lee made the best-directed film of 2018.
BlacKkKlansman proves itself to be a powerful piece of work that captures today’s problems that balanced dark humor and anger fused together that only director Spike Lee can thoroughly handle. Grade: A-