Blackkklansman is a film set in the 1970s but is all too relevant to today
Spike Lee’s latest joint tells the outrageous and true story of how a black man successfully managed to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan.The notion of a black man going undercover to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan sounds both ridiculous and mad dangerous, not to mention too crazy to be true. But, indeed this definitely did happen. Spike Lee uses the 2014 book written by Ron Stallworth, titled Black Klansman, as the basis for his latest joint set during the 1970s.
As the first black police officer to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) had a pretty good idea that things weren’t necessarily going to be smooth sailing for him. After moving up from the records department and now behind a desk, Stallworth makes an impromptu phone call after seeing a classified ad in the local paper for the Ku Klux Klan. And before he knows it, Stallworth’s having a conversation with a member of the Klan about joining what they describe as ‘the Organisation’ and making plans to meet up. Clearly due to his skin colour, Stallworth is unable to attend the meeting, so he ropes fellow detective, the Jewish Flip Zimmerman(Adam Driver), in to act as his proxy. With Stallworth manning the phones and Zimmerman acting as the face, it’s not long before together they form one entity that manages to infiltrate the hate group that is the KKK.
Walks a fine line between comedy and serious drama.
Lee’s movie is without a doubt definitely entertaining but it is also heavily laden with social and political commentary. It smartly walks a fine line between comedy and serious drama, dipping into each genre at just the right time, without it taking anything away from the message that it is delivering. Black activists are brought in to add tension and conflict which is heightened when Stallworth starts to fall for dedicated protester Patrice, played fiercely and passionately by Laura Harrier. It’s at this point that the film really shines.
Caught between his duties as an officer of the law, standing alongside his ‘people’ and having to pretend to be a hater of all non white folk, Stallworth’s character really gets put through the wringer. At the same time Stallworth is being exposed to racial hatred from with the police force, Zimmerman is also forced to face up to who he really is and finds himself also going on a journey of discovery of sorts. And it is these moments, when the characters have a real light bulb moment that stand out.
There are some scenes that felt over simplified, and almost negate some of the power the film had generated suggesting that certain issues are down to individuals rather than being inherent within an entire organisation. The overall look of the film is slick and stylish, mostly down to the amazing costuming, with some really nice shots and sequences that hark back to the movies from the 1970s as well as the blaxploitation movies.
The humour mostly comes from the red-neck Klansmen that belong to the Colorado chapter, fully embodying any and all stereo types with the phone interactions between Stallworth and the KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, played brilliantly by Topher Grace, making for some of the most entertaining scenes.
Lee proves that he can create an entertaining and engaging movie that at the same time gets the audience thinking.
As Stallworth and Zimmerman get deeper and deeper into the KKK, naturally the tension of the film increases. Despite it never being obvious how it’ll all pan out, it almost goes off the boil towards the end. But I suppose because it’s based on actual accounts a big Hollywood style ending wouldn’t be appropriate, which is fair enough. That said though, the very final scenes are extremely powerful and to bring the film into the present day. They really hammer home that racism and hatred, police brutality and discrimination were not limited to decades that have long since passed, that they are very real and very present issues that need to be addressed and dealt with.
Blackkklansman is a film that is without a shadow of a doubt a product of the times we are living in. It relays a story that took place during the 1970s and, unfortunately, places it within todays current climate. Lee proves that he can create an entertaining and engaging movie that at the same time gets the audience thinking and contemplating what’s happening on screen. At the same time, it feels like it was perhaps treading on the side of caution, that maybe it could have been a bit fiercer. In spite of this though, for fans of Lee’s work, of which I am, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
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