There is no doubt that Spike Lee is one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. Let’s face it… It is absolutely a CRIME that his 1989 film “Do the Right Thing” didn’t win Best Picture. To this day it is one of the best films in history. In the past 10 years or so, Lee has been making less memorable films. 2006’s “Inside Man” was very well-directed, but that is honestly the last movie Lee made that gripped audiences and didn’t let them go. Miracle at Saint Ana was very disappointing and Chi-Raq kind of flew under the radar. When the trailer for BlacKkKlansman debuted, it was and still is the best trailer of 2018. The pressure was on for Lee to deliver on this unbelievable true story. It is safe to say that he didn’t disappoint at all with this one. BlacKkKlansman is 2018’s first true Oscar film that will have 6 or more nominations, including Best Picture and Best Directing.
Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, successfully managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan and became the head of the local chapter.
There is so much to love about this film. It hits several different emotions throughout its run-time, but don’t think it has an identity crisis. The trailer pitches it as a comedy with some dramatic undertones, but BlacKklansman is an angry film that is very determined to convey that we have made no progress at all as a country when it comes to racism. This is without a doubt the most important film of 2018 so far, and very well might end up being the most important of the entire year by the end. The story follows Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American police officer in Colorado Springs, Colorado (or as referred to in the movie, the Jackie Robinson of the police department). Being a rookie, and the first African-American rookie, you can imagine that he went through some rough moments in the police station dealing with racist cops and overall judgemental people. His first assignment after he gets out of the Records Room is the go undercover and get intel about the Black Panther chapter in Colorado Springs. This is where we are introduced to Flip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver. Quickly he diverts from this to doing some research on the KKK and then making one phone call that changes everything. In a matter of minutes, Ron Stallworth has a face to face meeting set up with the chapter leader of the KKK in the Colorado Springs area. Obviously, a face to face meeting wouldn’t go to well with the real Ron Stallworth, so Phil portrays the white Ron Stallworth. And this is where the movie gets really good.
What stands out the most in BlacKklansman are the performances from John David Washington and Adam Driver. This and Spike Lee’s direction is truly some of the best of his career. You can tell that he is very poised and confident in this important story, and the passion oozes onto the screen with each passing minute. This movie balances internal conflicts Zimmerman being a Jewish-American and Stallworth being an African-American, coupled with the fine line to walk while being undercover and a professional in such an intense and less than ideal situation. Driver’s performance is absolutely incredible as he essentially plays two different people. Washington does the same thing and both of them knock it out of the park. Topher Grace portrays David Duke, the president of the KKK, and he is truly magnificent. A role like that isn’t easy to take on, but he killed it.
The most powerful thing that BlacKkKlansman does is it makes you angry. You walk out of the theater furious, mainly because that same KKK portrayed in the movie is still very relevant today and still led by David Duke. It is truly horrifying and hard to watch the final 10 minutes of this movie. Real footage and facts from Charlottesville, just a year ago, take over the screen, conveying that the SAME EXACT hate and racism from the time period of the film is still just as prominent today. Lee wants the audience to realise that we have made no progress. That is bold and powerful filmmaking that not many directors could demonstrate so confidently. BlacKkKlansman’s goal isn’t the ONLY make you angry, though. It is a very informative movie that balances very well on both sides of the KKK, the good white cops that understand and respect black culture, and racist hot-head cops in the department. And this is exactly how things are today. For every good white cop, there’s three that will shoot a black person in the back or grope a black girl during a routine traffic stop. It happens in the movie because it is still going on today.
Overall, BlacKkKlansman isn’t my personal favorite movie of the year, but it very well might be the best movie of the year. The performances are top-notch, the score is great, and Lee’s directing is truly brilliant. The only real issues are that the pacing in the first act is off and some character actions feel slightly forced. Other than that it’s extremely powerful and thought-provoking. These are the types of movies we need Spike Lee to make. Go check it out in theaters.