I know that director Spike Lee is revered but in my opinion he has as many misses at hits. Do the Right Thing is certainly a classic and his run of Get on the Bus, He Got Game and Summer of Sam between 1996 and 1999 was exceptional. However, there hasn’t been anything that has impressed me since 2006’s Inside Man, until now.
BlacKkKlansman is loosely based on a true story. In the early 70s, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. On a whim, he makes call to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) who have advertised in the local paper. When they want to meet him with a view to allowing him to join, it is his chance to infiltrate them and investigate their illegal activities. His partner, Flip (Adam Driver) takes his place in the face-to-face meetings whilst Ron continues to talk to them on the phone.
This is absolutely brilliant stuff. Moving with ease from almost farcical comedy to moments that will make you want to scream at the screen in anger. Although based over 40 years ago, it feels very prescient with parallels to the current US administration made regularly, and at times not too subtly! The last act is particularly satisfying and tense as Flip looks like he will have his cover blown whilst he and Ron try to stop a bombing plot. But there is also time for the funniest moment in the film as Ron poses for a photo with grand wizard David Duke (Topher Grace).
Some people have criticised the use of news footage from last year’s events in Charlottesville at the end of the movie but I found it chillingly effective and a perfect contextualization for the story.
All the cast is exemplary. Washington shows that he had the ability to move out of his father, Denzel’s shadow, and Driver gives probably his career best performance so far. Of the supporting cast, special mention needs to go to Ashlie Atkinson as the scary wife of one of the Klansmen and Michael Buscemi as a fellow police officer. There is also a great small role for Harry Belafonte.
A timely, thought provoking, scary and funny film. This is sure to be near the top of many best of the year lists.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10