Jacob Richardson | 26/07/2018
BlacKkKlansman is incredibly powerful, raucously funny, tremendously poignant and timely, and draped in a layer of undeniable cool.
Following the nigh on unbelievable tale of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an African-American police officer who became a card carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s. With the help of colleagues Flip Zimmerman (Adamn Driver) and Jimmy (Michael Buscemi), Stallworth not only infiltrates the KKK, but also becomes telephone friends with it’s then (and now) Grand Wizard, David Duke (Topher Grace).
Directed by Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman takes a wholly unbelievable tale and delivers it not only coherently and with incredible interest, but with beautiful moments of clarity and comparison with modern day politics.
Washington emodies Stallworth as an incredibly cool, perhaps irresponsibly confident new cop. He stands up to racial injustice, but tends to avoid the more dramatic displays of solidarity that his girlfriend, Patrice (Laura Harrier) does. It’s an interesting take from Lee, to make Stallworth out to not be the particular activist in this scenario, but also one that helps to solidify the diversity of actions that were (and can be) taken in support of the cause.
Driver, too, does a great job embodying the face of Ron Stallworth to the KKK. Alec Baldwin pops up briefly at the start, and some of the KKK members are truly terrifying. What’s most intriguing from a performance perspective, however, is Topher Grace’s performance as David Duke.
Lee ends the film with footage of the recent cavalcade of racial injustice in the United States; from Charlottesville to Trump’s election. He also includes footage of the modern day David Duke, who is still Grand Wizard of the KKK, inciting a group of followers in the wake of some of Trump’s commentary. It is spooky how eerily close Grace’s mannerisms are to Duke’s, and stands as a testament to the quality of that performance.
Lee brings in some incredibly subtle digs at modern politics; from darkened hallway conversations to askance looks. The most poignant of these is a tremendously cut sequence where KKK members (including a sheepish looking Driver as Ron Stallworth) watch Birth of a Nation vociferously while Henry Belafonte narrates a horrific tale to a captive audience. The two scenes take on a particularly poignancy due to Belafonte’s presence, given his history as a civil rights activist and his confidant status with Martin Luther King Jr.
In the end, while BlacKkKlansman is, undoubtedly, a piece with political overtures, it is also a standalone enjoyable piece of cinema. Lee perfectly balances the film between entertainment and education, and creates a film that you simply can’t take your eyes off.
BlacKkKlansman is a masterpiece of filmmaking. Not only politically insightful, but endlessly entertaining. It’ll have you glued to the screen; shocked, laughing and crying.