Iconic filmmaker Spike Lee returns to the big screen with BlacKkKlansman from Focus Features. This impressive script was written by Lee David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and, Kevin Willmott. The script served as a mirror to modern day race relations. While BlacKkKlansman’s may be seen as propaganda with its message, it’s a sad truth of how not much has changed since the seventies.
Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) has taken a job with the Colorado Springs Police Department. As their first African American police officer, Ron is initially met with skepticism from his peers. Bored with his day-to-day tasks, Ron decides to apply to a Ku Klux Klan ad, where he makes contact with Walter (Ryan Eggold), president of a chapter in Colorado Springs. Impressed with Ron’s views, Walter decides he would like to meet with Ron. To achieve his goals, Ron decides to have a white cop Flip (Adam Driver) portray himself in person while Ron does the voice work. As Flip —white Ron— rises in the ranks of the Klan, he has to avoid the suspicions Felix (Jasper Pääkkönen), a hot-headed Klan member, while continuing to impress the rest of the Klan.
In his first lead role, John David Washington is a revelation as Ron Stallworth. I feel that the casting director made a wise choice by using an unknown in the lead role. While I was familiar with John David Washington’s work from the HBO series Ballers, BlacKkKlansman truly showcased Washington’s talent. I truly hope his role as Ron Stallworth leads to more leading man work. Credit must also go to Adam Driver as Flip, a character of Jewish descent. During one particular scene, Felix and Flip debate the validity of the Holocaust. Driver is amazing, not only because of his chemistry with his cast mates but, also because of his ability to play such a dark character. In the past I’ve been highly critical of Driver’s acting; however, after his performance in BlacKkKlansman, I now consider myself a fan.
From the title, one would think that BlacKkKlansman is a satirical comedy. While the film is filled with laugh out moments, make no mistakes, it is a powerful piece of work. Spike Lee made the wise choice to open the film with a shot of the Confederate flag and a chilling cameo of Alec Baldwin as a white supremacist. The script gets the best from its supporting cast as well, in particular, Topher Grace as David Duke. I’ve never taken Grace seriously as an actor; however, as David Duke, Grace does the best work of his career. Commendable work also comes from Laura Harrier as Patrice, Ron’s love interest and the Black Student Union president at the local University. Two of the film’s cameo (which I won’t reveal here) both have riveting monologues.
When the credits rolled on BlacKkKlansman, I sat in the theater mesmerized by the work of art I’ve just seen. Spike Lee has always been one of my favorite filmmakers. I generally enjoy everything he does cinematically. Not only has Lee crafted one of the year’s best films, but this film is one of his most powerful works since the vastly underrated Bamboozled. With its powerful message, lush cinematography, and award-worthy performances, BlacKkKlansman Is highly recommended.
Final Grade: A+