Director: Spike Lee
Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Ryan Eggold
IMDB Rating: 7.9/10
Seveno Rating: 8.5/10
There are so many things to say about this film, I don’t know where to begin.
Taking place in the 1970s, BlacKkKlansman is a true story which follows Ron Stallworth (Washington), the first African-American police officer in Colorado Springs. After joining the force and becoming an undercover detective, Ron sees an advert in a newspaper for the local branch of the Klu Klux Klan, and decides to call up. He speaks to Walter Breachway, the head of the local branch, and, using his real name, expresses his interest in meeting up and joining the clan. Ron’s white (Jewish) colleague Flip Zimmerman (Driver) assumes the name of Ron Stallworth, and together the pair fully infiltrate the KKK in an attempt to learn more about how the operate, and prevent any attacks they may be planning.
This film had such an incredible plot, one that would always have made a great movie, but that is so shocking and so true that, combined with Spike Lee’s style, Jordan Peele’s influence, and a gorgeous cast, makes a fantastic film. I had such high expectations, and I was definitely not disappointed.
On a technical level, the wardrobe and the colours used throughout the film have such an earthy and 70s feel to them, so that it not only looks as though it was set in the 70s, but also kind of feels like it was made then too. It feels very authentic and real, which helps to remind audience members that they are indeed watching a true story. The editing is also extremely clever, with some interesting contrasts portrayed through cutting KKK gatherings with Black Power gatherings, as well as the inclusion of references to celebrate black cinema. I don’t want to give anything away, but Lee somehow manages to draw on different elements to either shock or please the viewer, which may not always appear seemless but yet somehow always are.
The characters are written so well, that even though as an audience member you know what the KKK stands for and what they are, you feel as though you, along with Ron and Flip, fully infiltrate them, and get to know the members beyond their radical and absurd beliefs. Behind the racism, you see the wife who only wants to please her husband and be involved in his life, you see the klan leader who wants to do the best for this group, who knows when to lead but when to step aside. These characters are not just racist caricatures, but they are also real people. Something which is so important to remind audience members of, because their beliefs are so mind-blowingly absurd, its easy to forget that people like this actually exist in the world.
The writing is so effective. You laugh, but you also want to scream and shout at some of these characters, as you struggle to understand how someone could ever think such things. While the script and the soundtrack give this film a distinctly comedic tone, it is impossible to forget that what you’re watching is real, and its difficult to detach yourself from the ridiculousness of it all.
Adam Driver is brilliant, as always, but Washington really does steal the show, as you watch him battle between doing what he believes to be write, but also the radical “all power to all people” movement that is girlfriend so strongly believes in. You watch Ron straddle the lines between two worlds that he so desperately wants to be a part in, as his beliefs contrast the thoughts of so many of his fellow African-American citizens. Instead of fighting violence with violence, he wants to rise above it, and change things from within the system. Its so inspiring to see this, and while it is, admittedly, difficult to understand how he shows so much self control when faced with so much casual and extreme racism, you can’t help but admire his determination. It’s inspiring.
But above all of this, without a doubt what made me love this movie was the unapologetic parallels between then and now that Lee slipped into his film. He constantly reminds you that, not only did these specific events take place not that long ago, but more importantly that they continue to happen. Without wanting to spoil anything, the ending was so poignant, but also so important in reminding, not only Americans but people all over the world, that the struggle is not over. That systematic and casual racism still exist today, and that the country is somehow run by a President that can be said to support groups as radically offensive and racist as the KKK.
Spike Lee did such an incredible job on this film, and it is everything I hoped it would be. I just hope that this film gets people thinking and talking, so that we can all work to change and improve the world we live in today. Because this, the reality of this, is absolutely terrifying.