Spike Lee has made an extremely powerful film with BlacKkKlansman (2018). He confronts you with a “fo real, fo real” story of a young, black detective in Colorado Springs as he infiltrates the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The story is compelling enough, but Lee’s ability to draw parallels to the world we are currently living in makes it more poignant than one would have expected. Lee’s cast manages to bring a lot of humanity to the story, and he crafts a narrative that allows the audience to sit and think about their own opinions and beliefs.
BlacKkKlansman says a lot, but also just lets you reflect
Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) joins the Colorado Springs Police Department, becoming the first black officer in the department. Initially relegated to desk work, Stallworth gets an opportunity to do some intelligence gathering for the department, which leads him to reaching out to the Ku Klux Klan. His phone contact goes so well that the local chapter wants to set up a meeting, and Stallworth recruits Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to be the “white” Ron Stallworth.
Washington truly shines in this film. While Adam Driver performs very well, and Laura Harrier gets some key scenes as Patrice (the head of the Black Student Union) with Washington, Stallworth is the center of the story. Thus, Washington has to carry the film, and he is able to pull it off. The scenes where he is calling the KKK, and later on the Grand-Wizard himself, David Duke (Topher Grace), are some of the lighter and more entertaining sequences. Washington uses his charm here to really showcase his talent.
One element of the BlacKkKlansman that really stood out was Lee’s referencing film history. I’ll omit details for now so as to avoid possible spoilers, but several moments in the film revolve around characters discussing or watching movies. In some ways, it seems Lee is evoking the idea that film can influence the audience, which is definitely relevant to the one he created. He is also referencing how films have portrayed black characters, and how that in turn has affected the people who have watched them. These moments – found throughout the entire film, really – give the audience much to think about in an extremely digestible way.
This summer has given us Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, and the BlacKkKlans – all of which have been extremely powerful. They all deal with similar themes, but are extremely different with how they approach and explore them. None of them come off as preachy, but all three make you acknowledge and confront real problems happening in our country right now. Film is a powerful tool to convey worlds that many viewers may be oblivious to, if not for these talented writers and directors. This holds true with all film, and why so many hold such important places in our hearts. Yet, with the divisive state we currently find ourselves in, these specific films hold much more weight than any others released.
BlacKkKlansman manages to walk a very captivating line of being an entertaining movie that tells a compelling story while also making the audience confront many truths. Spike Lee allows the audience to make choices and encourages us to have a discourse without giving a distinctive take on all the issues. However, on a few of the many topics he brings up in his film, he takes a firm stance that most people would completely agree with. His latest film earns the Must See rating.