This past weekend I was invited to a screening by NBC/Universal to watch the new Spike Lee film, BlacKkKlansman. Before I dive in to my review, I implore all of you to catch this film if you can. This was my first time in a theater where when the lights came on, everyone sat completely still. Everyone was completely wrapped up in their own thoughts, softly crying. It was a powerful experience.
BlacKkKlansman tells the story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) who, in the 70’s, is the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Stallworth starts off in the records room, taking shitty remarks from the detectives and the other members of the department. He convinces the department to let him become a Detective and they send him undercover to a Black Power rally. Stallworth ends up meeting a young woman, Patrice (Laura Harrier), whose courage and strength inspires him. He then sees an ad for the KKK in the newspaper and decides to infiltrate the group. He calls the number and speaks to the leader of the local clan and sets up a meeting. Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), his fellow detective, goes to the meeting pretending to be Ron and begins to find out what’s really going on.
The KKK are evil, but this particular clan have violent plans to take down the Black Power group in the town. Will Stallworth and Zimmerman be able to stop them in time?
In 1992 Spike Lee put out his Malcom X bio-pic which was an incredible film starring Denzel Washington. 26 years later, John David Washington takes over the leading role. He is the son of Denzel and brings just as much power to the screen. His acting is thoughtful, perfectly comedically timed, and addicting to watch. Adam Driver, a powerhouse on his own, manages to keep up with Washington as the two spend a lot of the film quipping at each other. It’s a great team to carry this story.
All of the actors in this flick carry their own torch and bring this story to life. The movie opens on Alec Baldwin spewing hate speech into the camera, instantly setting you on edge and making you uncomfortable. His eyes bearing into you as hate spews out. Topher Grace, who plays David Duke, is terrifying as the leader of the KKK. One particularly intense scene is where the KKK are all hanging on David’s every word as he preaches hatred. It will bring on the goosebumps. Another performance I loved was Laura Harrier as Patrice. Patrice is steadfast in her goals of liberating her people and bringing down the racist cops of the town. She is somebody to look up to, and also someone we can all see ourselves in.
What this film reaffirms is that idiots can be fucking dangerous. Most of the KKK in this movie are made up of dumb, drunk, self conscious dudes who look to each other for confirmation. And what hits so hard is how it feels as though nothing has changed. This story we’re watching unfold in the 1970’s reflects the story we’re watching unfold today, slice by slice. Lee does a lot of nods to modern day Trump with certain lines and jokes. And while in the moment it’s funny, when you reach the end and begin to reflect, it’s depressing.
The ending of BlacKkKlansman is something that I don’t want to spoil, even though I have already told everyone I know in person about it (sorry, not sorry). The ending of this flick is like a gut punch that shocks your system completely and will leave you plastered to your seat.
An incredible movie – perfect combination of humor, emotion, and fear.