Although we’ve clearly evolved, racism has tragically always been mankind’s constant. BlacKkKlansman tells the story of an African-American undercover cop named Ron Stallworth who, with the help of his Jewish partner, manages to gain membership into the Ku Klux Klan in the early 70s. This Spike Lee joint is based on a true story and depicts an important American hero battling beliefs and ideas that are nurtured by close-minded, lost individuals that shoot up the dark fantasy of a white America straight into their veins. John David Washington (yes, he is the son of that Washington) stars as Ron Stallworth and is joined by a talented cast that includes Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Jasper Paakkonen and Topher Grace.
A Spike Lee Joint
Spike Lee commands the screen with his unique vision and signature shots, including a beautiful floating shot and double takes, as he shows us both the comedic and dark nature of people that refuse to integrate. We are shown both the black and white extremes, with our hero falling somewhere in the center, trying to be of true service to the concept of integration.
Now, it’s not his most masterful film, but he does masterfully direct it. There’s definitely a fine balance between tense moments dealing with the Klan and hilarious ones where their true stupidity is on full display. However, what I found most entertaining is that the script comments or alludes to racism as we know it today, during the Trump administration. The film ends on a serious, cautionary note that is much needed, as Spike brings us back to the heinous events of 2017. Although it’s not quite the knockout punch you were expecting, especially in comparison to his past films on the same topic, the hit is still very much a bruising one.
John David Washington is a charismatic lead, playing Ron Stallworth with an earnestness to do some right as a police officer. He comes off as a natural, and even sounds a little bit like Denzel, rocking the most perfect afro you’ve ever seen and 70s attire with gusto. Washington plays it cool as Ron, and every time he gets excited for a win onscreen, it’s hard not to smile and clap.
Adam Driver, playing Flip Zimmerman, Stallworth’s partner that suits up as the physical presence of ‘White Ron Stallworth’ gives a subtle, but completely dedicated performance. Flip is the man in the lion’s den and he’s very convincing playing a redneck racist, despite being Jewish. Both Driver and Washington make this film work so well by genuinely pulling you in to care for their characters. They are real in a sense that they want to chop away at the Klan while putting the middle finger up in triumph.
There are also plenty of highlights from the supporting cast. Corey Hawkins plays fiery orator Kwame Ture, and although he’s only in the film for a few minutes, he captivates the audience with a speech that stirs up a fighting spirit. Then, there’s Topher Grace as David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who not only looks like the 1978 version of Klan leader, but portrays him with a somewhat disarming exterior mask held up by slime.
At the end of the day, the events depicted in the BlacKkKlansman is a single battle in the never-ending war against racism. Spike Lee’s film stands as inspiration to do something more than just buy a ticket to watch a true hero’s past accomplishments, especially if you take into account the ending of the film. If anything, we haven’t come very from where America was at with racism in the 1970s. Maybe those white hooded figures were just waiting for the right moment to rear their heads again. Our past is vital commentary for present day, so we should listen.