Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan, and rises through its ranks. Spike Lee returns with his own unique take on this story and how it may reflect on society today. BlacKKKlansman stars John David Washington, Adam Driver and more.
It doesn’t take very long for you to notice the constant usage of parallels in this film to portray various themes or motifs. I think Spike Lee does a tremendous job of illustrating the commonality of the racial tensions of the past and present. You can expect some familiar phrases or sayings to make those connections especially obvious.
Another parallel that was handled well was the similarity of oppression between Black and Jewish people. Far too often we will see films portray the historic oppression of black and Jewish people as if there was some type of rivalry. I really appreciated the fact that the film went about it in a much more practical way to highlight the similarities without making it a competition.
If you’re familiar with Spike Lee’s past work, then you’ll be pleased here with the familiar, unconventional style of film-making. In a number of scenes you’ll get a moment or two where the characters appear to be breaking the 4th wall in order to speak directly to the audience. However, the characters still remain in character the entire time. So it’s a pretty cool way for Spike to convey his messages directly to the audience, while speaking through the characters.
When it comes to the messages of BlacKKKlansman, Spike doesn’t take any shortcuts when it comes to giving the audience the full effect of scenes. For example, rather than giving highlights of a speech, he’ll be sure to show you the entirety of it so you can feel the full impact of it all. I thought it was a smart move to add yet another layer to those types of moments by showing very sharp imagery while the speeches happen. Lee also doesn’t shy away from showcasing black beauty and diversity in strong and blatant mannerisms.
Obviously, racial issues are discussed heavily in this film. Thankfully, those issues weren’t limited to simply black on white tensions. The plot continued to reflect even more racial layers to this true story by exploring issues such as code-switching and the potentially conflicting duality of being a black police officer. To go even further, BlacKKKlansman exhibited through its characters an interesting contrast of the Black Experience vs White American interpretation of many things. In other words, you’ll get to see the difference of how white people in the film interpret a situation while also witnessing how black people actually live out that same experience.
I think the acting in this film was pretty solid all the way around. John David Washington (who if you didn’t know just so happens to be the son of Denzel Washington) gave a nice performance as Ron Stallworth. Adam Driver also stepped up to the plate in his supporting role, but I think Jasper Pääkkönen (plays “Felix”) steals a bit of the spotlight here. This guy was so racist and crazy that he was pissing me off just watching his scenes. (That’s when you know you’ve done a good job as an actor.)
In case you couldn’t tell, this movie deals with racism… a lot. It’s no surprise that if you’re going to be dealing with the KKK, then you’re going to see some pretty extreme bigotry. In my opinion, there were probably just a few scenes that were a bit unnecessary. I understand the intention of trying to demonstrate how extreme some of the KKK members may have been. However, after a certain point in the movie, you get the point. I think this film could’ve saved at least 10-15 minutes of cutting out some of the particular focus on the KKK members and their eccentric behavior.
If Chi-Raq rubbed you the wrong way, then you can feel safe with this film. BlacKKKlansman is a tough pill for America to swallow. It felt like a classic Spike Lee joint, and people should realize that this movie has a distinct message. Spike Lee is trying really hard to communicate his perception of the state of our current society with the parallels of the past and through satire. Since this was all based on a true story, I think people will be even more engaged with the story. Not only that, but the way Spike Lee ends the film in a very real fashion, it’s almost as though the film intentionally forces people to take a moment of silent reflection.
Given the current political climate, and the high racial tensions in society, you have to laugh at the outrageous humor to keep yourself from crying at the extreme racism in this film. BlacKKKlansman was entertaining, insightful and ever so timely. Despite a lot of the serious racial issues explored in this film, there’s thankfully just enough feel good moments to keep you from becoming completely depressed. However, it’s not the type of movie I’d like to sit through and watch all over gain. Not because it’s a bad film; mainly because intake of racial nonsense will max me out for the day. Either way, feel free to go check out BlacKKKlansman in theaters.
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Crime
Director: Spike Lee
Writer: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz
Stars: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier
BlacKKKlansman is in theaters now.