BlacKkKlansman pushes beyond typical race discussions, presents necessary insights
The movie BlacKkKlansman (yes, three K’s) is a movie as racially charged as one might expect from the somewhat oxymoronic title. As such, it can be uncomfortable to watch at times, and somewhat prophetic at others, but it never seems to forget the truly absurd comedic circumstance that the story is centered around.
The film focuses on the real-life investigative work of Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who managed to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan during the 1970s with the help of fellow officer Flip Zimmerman. Throughout the movie, Stallworth maintains a relationship with KKK Leader David Duke over the phone, while Zimmerman interacts with the KKK in person though the persona of Ron Stallworth. The movie stars John David Washington as a young Ron Stallworth, and Adam Driver plays a cynical Zimmerman. While at times it may seem like the movie struggles to decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama, I believe Spike Lee managed to deliver an incredible film.
As a black man, I think this movie obviously had some points that hit close to home the way the film handled the KKK, and the current white supremacist ideals in society today. The film explores and comments on the birth of the alt-right movement and its connections to the KKK. While many of the Klansmen are shown as slur-spitting idiots, some are well-spoken, mild-mannered white men, which frankly is the most horrifying part of the film. This is because the KKK has been working to modify its image so that they can become more political since the 1970s. There is even a scene in the movie where two cops are discussing how the KKK is attempting to change its image in order to attract more people and become more political, so that one day they can get someone who would sympathize with their beliefs, into a high political office at which point there was an audible “oh shit” moment for me in the theater. The movie drives this point home even further with real footage from the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally last year, as if to remind us that this message from the past is not quite as dead and buried as some would like to pretend.
However, even without the heavy-handed themes of the film, Spike Lee is a truly talented director who is able to make the most of a truly talented cast. Lee uses incredible camera angles that show David Duke as a truly intimidating villain despite his slight frame, due to the camera filming at his eye level or below for most scenes to make him look larger than life. John David Washington shines as Ron Stallworth in this movie through his talented, and at times emotional, delivery. Washington truly affects the audience in his scene with Laura Harrier, who plays the romantic interest Patrice Dumas, but also proves herself to be a wonderful differing viewpoint on what racial equality means from Ron Stallworth. Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman puts on a good, if somewhat uninspired, performance throughout the film; however, Driver has some tense scenes with Topher Grace, who plays David Duke. Grace manages to capture the calm exterior of the former KKK Grand Wizard, as well as the incredible amount of hate and bigotry of the character.
Overall, I would say that the film is a politically charged ride that will have viewers walking away feeling hopeful yet disturbed, and I would highly recommend this movie for anyone who’s looking for something thought-provoking that has a bit of action and a lot of laughs.